JayAroslaw KaczynskiChairman of Poland’s ruling Law and Justice Party (PIsmall), not the playful type. Otherwise, the grumpy godfather of Polish politics might enjoy the irony of passing a law purportedly designed to purge the country of Russian influence, but with distinctly Stalinist overtones.law, which hand PIsmall A powerful bludgeon that could easily be abused to beat or ban his opponents came into force just months before an election in which Polish voters will judge his party’s eight years in power.
Polish President Andrzej Duda approved the law (pictured left) on May 29, which establishes a nine-member state commission to investigate alleged abuses between 2007 and 2022. Operations of Russian influence. Poland is not the only country that has experienced Russian interference. Russia hacked Hillary Clinton’s emails during the 2016 US presidential campaign, wooed German businessmen and former politicians for influence and funded ultra-nationalist parties across Europe.In Poland, there are allegations that Russia is involved in the privatization program and likes to preconceivePIsmall Russian energy government. PIsmall The spokesman said the new team was needed to increase transparency and strengthen national power at a time of heightened threats. “An honest person acting in the interests of Poland has nothing to hide and nothing to fear,” Mr Duda said.
However, the committee will not be independent in any way.Its members will be elected by the Parliament, currently composed of PIsmall, whose chairman will be appointed by Mateusz Morawiecki, the prime minister and vice-chairman of the party. The panel will have access to Poland’s most secret records, as well as the power to subpoena witnesses and order searches and confiscation of documents. Its own deliberations can be conducted in secret, and its members will be protected from future prosecution. The law’s definition of “Russian interference” is extremely vague. However, the committee has the power to overturn any executive decision it claims was made under such influence and to ban anyone it believes has helped Russia from holding public office for up to ten years.
How such dangerously sweeping power was exercised was clear to many Poles. A poll released on May 29 by market research firm United Surveys found that 61 percent of respondents agreed that the new law was a “pre-election tactic to discredit political opponents”. It’s not just the Poles who are worried. Within hours of the law’s passage, the State Department issued a statement concerned that the committee “could be used without due process to block the candidacy of opposition politicians.” The European Commission expressed similar concerns and threatened “immediate action”. It has already imposed hefty fines on other violations of the rule of law in Poland.
The upcoming national election in mid-October to mid-November is seen by many as the most important political test Poland has faced since the end of communism in 1990. Most observers expect the election results to be close. Since taking office in 2015, PIsmall has turned the NBC into a propaganda outlet, packed the nation’s Supreme Court, and attempted to take over the entire judicial system. But it has also seen one of Europe’s strongest economic growth stories, with national pride running high as Poles unite behind the backing of neighboring Ukraine.
The opposition is divided. The ruling party’s growing control over the media and state apparatus puts it at a disadvantage. Many Poles, however, are angry at the ruling party’s bluster and coercion and worry about the future of their democracy. Mr Kaczynski’s own comments did little to allay such concerns.In a recent letter to supporters PIsmall Aristocrats who shunned the executive office but ran the government behind the scenes, darkly warned of foreign (especially German) conspirators working with Polish traitors. He declared that an election victory by the opposition would spell the end of Poland.
In the past, Mr Kaczynski has called prominent opposition politicians traitors and lackeys. He appears to harbor a particular grudge against Donald Tusk (pictured, right), who led the country’s largest opposition Civic Platform party and was prime minister from 2007-14. During that time, Mr Kaczynski’s brother, then Poland’s president, was killed along with 95 others in a plane crash in the Russian city of Smolensk.For more than a decade, Mr. Kaczynski and colleagues PIsmall Politicians have advanced a notorious conspiracy theory that Russia was behind the crash. Worse, they accused Mr Tusk of conspiring to cover up the truth. Perhaps seeing his opponent disqualified will bring a rare smile to Mr Kaczynski. But the paralysis of Polish democracy is no joke. ■