Polish ruling party to back president’s changes to Russian influence law: spokesman
Poland’s governing conservatives will vote in favour of changes proposed by the president to a law on investigating Russian influence in Polish politics, a spokesman said on Tuesday.
Rafał Bochenek.PAP/Paweł Supernak
Rafał Bochenek, who is spokesman for Poland’s ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party, made the announcement in an interview with public broadcaster Polish Radio.
Asked in the interview if the Law and Justice party would support Duda’s proposal for modifications to the controversial law, Bochenek said: “In principle, yes, we will support these amendments.”
’Transparency of political life’
Bochenek told Polish Radio: “The main thing is that after the changes proposed by the president, the law on investigating Russian influence will retain its essential element, namely … ensuring the transparency of political life.”
The spokesman added: “The public is entitled to know the background behind decisions that impacted the country’s internal security. Polish people are entitled to know the circumstances in which these decisions were taken. And that’s what the new state commission is designed to establish.”
Bochenek further stated: “We want to dispel all the doubts in a procedure that is open to the public. We want to allow Polish people to see the documents and testimonies of various people.”
Presidential aide welcomes move
Presidential aide Małgorzata Paprocka welcomed the ruling party’s pledge to back Duda’s amendments.
“The president would like the amendments to be approved during this session of parliament,” Paprocka told Polish Radio.
MPs were expected to hold a first reading of the presidential bill to amend the law on investigating Russian influence on Tuesday evening, state news agency PAP reported.
The second reading has been provisionally scheduled for Friday, according to officials.
President signs law to investigate Russian influence
On May 29, the president said that he had approved a law establishing a special panel to investigate Russian influence in Polish politics.
Duda approved the measure after it passed parliament on May 26 on a final vote of 234 to 219, with one abstention, the PAP news agency reported.
The president, who is an ally of Poland’s conservative government, told reporters at the time that he had „no doubt that the issue of Russian influence needs explaining.”
The US State Department and the European Union have since expressed concerns about the Polish law, which has caused a public outcry.
Critics have said it violates the Polish constitution and could keep government opponents from holding public office and block opposition candidates in an election due in the autumn, the AP news agency has reported.
Polish opposition politicians have claimed that the proposed probe is specifically targeted at former Prime Minister Donald Tusk, who is the leader of the country’s largest opposition party, the Civic Platform (PO).
President proposes tweaks to probe
On June 2, Duda proposed an amendment to the controversial law, saying that the new commission of inquiry should not include lawmakers or have power to ban anyone from holding public office.
Duda said he was sending amendments to parliament because he was aware of the domestic and international criticism surrounding the law proposed by Poland’s governing party.
He called on lawmakers to “approve them as soon as possible.”
No lawmakers on Russian influence panel, easier appeals, no bans
Duda told reporters he was proposing to „amend the law in three ways.”
First, the “commission for investigating Russian influence on Poland’s internal security between 2007 and 2022” should not include MPs and senators, he said.
Second, the commission’s decisions should be appealable to common courts rather than administrative ones, which can only determine a decision’s legality, he added.
“Additionally, to dispel any doubts, a person investigated by the commission would be allowed to lodge an appeal with their local appeals court, so that cases are not necessarily judged by the Appeals Court in Warsaw,” Duda told the media.
Third, the commission 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, Duda also said.
The president told reporters: “Instead I propose that the commission be allowed to state that a person who has been found to be acting under Russian influence does not guarantee the proper performance of public duties.”
’Transparency of the commission’s proceedings’
Duda also said at the time that his amendments were designed to „strengthen the transparency of the commission’s proceedings.”
He told reporters: “Apart from exceptional cases involving the highest state secrets, all the hearings of the commission would be open to the public.”
“For me, the most important thing … is to ensure that the public … has access to information,” the president added.
Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24, 2022, launching the largest military campaign in Europe since World War II.