Polish parliament passes Russian influence bill which opposition brands political witch hunt
WARSAW (Reuters) -Polish lawmakers passed a bill on Friday to create a commission to look into Russian influence in the country, in what the opposition says is a government attempt to launch a witch hunt against political opponents in an election year.
Ruling nationalists Law and Justice (PiS) say that liberal opposition party Civic Platform (PO) allowed Poland to become dangerously dependent on Russian fossil fuels when the PO was in government from 2007 to 2015, raising questions about whether members of the PO were under Moscow's sway.
PO rejects this criticism and opposition figures have labelled the bill "Lex Tusk," using the Latin term for "law." They say it aims to eliminate PO leader and former prime minister Donald Tusk from the political scene ahead of elections scheduled for October or November.
The bill passed by a 234-219 margin, with one abstention.
"We want the law on the commission for examining Russian influences to come into force and for the commission to be able to work," PiS spokesman Rafal Bochenek said on Thursday.
"If Mr Donald Tusk has something on his conscience ... he should be afraid."
The idea of forming a commission to look in to Russian influence in Poland was in fact first put forward by Tusk in 2022.
The commission would investigate the period 2007-2022 and have the power to ban people found to have acted under Russian influence from holding security clearance or working in roles where they are responsible for public funds for ten years, effectively disqualifying them from public office.
Its members would be chosen by parliament, where PiS can command a narrow majority.
Poland's human rights ombudsman, Marcin Wiacek, has said the bill is unconstitutional and would mean that a public administrative body would carry out functions which should be reserved for the courts.
Poland's upper house of parliament, the Senate, voted in favour of throwing out the bill, a position that was upheld by a parliamentary commission on Wednesday.
The bill would have to be signed by President Andrzej Duda to become law.
(Reporting by Alan Charlish, Anna Wlodarczak-Semczuk and Marek Strzelecki in WarsawEditing by Matthew Lewis)