Polish president signs Russian influence commission law

Radek Pietruszka/PAP

Andrzej Duda, the Polish president, has signed into law legislation setting up a commission that will investigate alleged Russian influence on Poland's internal security in 2007-2022.

Duda said in a statement on Monday that transparency in clearing up important public and political issues was "of key importance" to him.

The president signed despite claims the commission could be used to bar opposition politicians from public office.

Poland goes to the polls this autumn, and opponents of the government argue that the commission could target leading opposition figures such as Donald Tusk, a former prime minister and now leader of Civic Platform (PO), the largest opposition party, ahead of the general election.

But according to the president, the public should be able to form their own view on how parliamentarians and government officials have behaved.

"How they performed those jobs, whether and how they understood Poland's interests, whether those were correctly executed in the public's view," Duda said.

However, despite signing the bill into law, the president has decided to send it to the country's Constitutional Tribunal to verify the constitutionality of the legislation, hinting at some doubts he may have about the new law.

It means that the legislation will be in force unless the Tribunal decides to strike it down, which may take months.

"I'm aware that there have been various concerns raised, also of a constitutional nature," Duda said.

Reacting to the news, Poland's opposition slammed the president's decision, arguing that the law only served the interests of the ruling party, the conservative Law and Justice (PiS), which Duda is a former member of.

Borys Budka, the caucus head of PO, wrote on Twitter: "Yet another time the fear of the chairman (of PiS, Jaroslaw Kaczynski - PAP) and absolute obedience have defeated constitutional norms and basic decency."

Krzysztof Gawkowski, caucus head of the Left, tweeted: "President Andrzej Duda chose the interests of PiS, not the interests of Poland! Shame and disgrace that such a person is the head of state!"

Wladyslaw Kosiniak-Kamysz, leader of the agrarian Polish People's Party (PSL), called the legislation "a kangaroo court over opposition politicians."

The commission will have the power to waive an administrative decision it deems was made under Russian influence, and in the case of people making such decisions issue a ban of up to 10 years from holding a public office that involves public funds.

It will also be able to block their security clearance for up to 10 years.

Duda also said a similar commission should be set up at the EU level and added that he will ask the prime minister, Mateusz Morawiecki, to raise the issue at the next European Council meeting.

"We have a dramatic situation behind our eastern border, we have the Russian aggression against Ukraine, we have the war, we have the economic and energy crises triggered by it and we have a number of negative factors," Duda explained.

The president said it was no secret that Russia had made various efforts over the past years to influence the policies of other countries, aiming to make them more dependent on Moscow and create favourable solutions for Russia, including business ones.