President's amendment bans lawmakers from Russian influence panel

A presidential amendment to a law on investigating Russian influence in domestic politics says the new commission of inquiry should not include MPs and senators.

President Andrzej Duda submitted his draft amendment to law establishing the commission for examining alleged Russian influence to the Sejm, the lower house of the Polish parliament, on Friday evening and appealed to parliament to adopt the changes as soon as possible.

His amendment comes as a sharp change of tack for the president, who only signed the law on Monday. The law was then published in the Journal of Laws on Tuesday and entered into force on Wednesday.

It will establish a commission to examine alleged Russian influence on the internal security of the Republic of Poland in the years 2007-2022.

The law, which gives the commission the power to ban people from public office for up to 10 years, has generated a storm of controversy both inside Poland and abroad, with even key allies such as the United States expressing fears it could be used by the government to undermine free and fair elections in Poland.

In a possible attempt to defuse some of the criticism Duda said in statement that his project assumes that experts, not MPs will sit on the committee.

"Membership in the commission cannot be combined with the mandate of an MP or senator," the presidential draft said.

According to Duda's proposal, the members of the commission will elect a chairman from among themselves, and the commission will adopt a resolution on this matter by a majority of votes, in an open vote, and in the presence of at least five members of the commission.

Under the law passed by the Sejm on May 26 the prime minister was to select the chairman of the commission from among its members.

The new commission of inquiry would be stripped of the right to impose "counter-measures," such as a ban on holding public office, a ban on access to state secrets or a ban on owning weapons, according to the presidential draft.

It also says that any appeals against its judgements would be directed not to the administrative court, but to the Court of Appeal in Warsaw (with the possibility of changing it to the court of appeal at the place of residence).

The presidential draft also envisages that all the hearings of the new commission of inquiry will be open to the public.

But in his statement Duda also stressed his "definite support" for the law, and that he was "absolutely convinced of the rightness" of his decision to sign it.