President announces changes to Russian influence commission

Albert Zawada/PAP

Andrzej Duda, the Polish president, announced on Friday that he has prepared amendments to a founding act under a special commission to investigate alleged Russian influences on Polish governments.

Duda's announcement came in response to criticism of his signing the act into law earlier this week.

The commission, to be empowered to bar politicians from public service if found to have been operating under Russian influence, has been heftily criticised by the US, the EU and the opposition in Poland, who see it as a tool to prevent opposition leader Donald Tusk from running in the autumn parliamentary elections.

Duda said his amendments will bar parliamentarians from sitting on the commission and allow for appeals to a general court instead of an administrative court. He also said the updated law will remove provisions that would allow banning politicians from office, which was the most contested part of the original law.

Instead, Duda's amendments stipulate that the commission may find that a person has acted under Russian influence and thus does not guarantee the proper performance of public duties.

Duda said he was disgusted with the criticism against him, which he described as "ill-willed," and said the amendments were a "test" for Poland's political elite. He added that the amendments would be filed to the Sejm (the lower parliamentary house) later on Friday.

Borys Budka, the caucus head of the main opposition party Civic Platform (PO), commented Duda's move for PAP.

He said that the president could have used the "pressure tools" he had at his disposal during the legislative work on the law on undue Russian influence but failed to use them, "and now he is trying to wash away the shame."

In Budka's opinion, "the president behaves like a scolded student who failed the exam and begs everyone to be able to re-sit it, but it is much too late for the re-sitting."

"This law has been processed for almost a year. The president has not spoken about it even once," added Budka. "He signed the law without hesitation on the grounds that it was great, lying to the public about the alleged possibilities of appealing to the common court."

He also said Civic Coalition, the grouping PO belongs to, would not send any representatives to the commission.

"If someone wants to break the law, they do it on their own account. The opposition clearly says it will not take part in this chutzpah," Budka added.