Poland’s President Andrzej Duda late Wednesday signed off on a bill creating a special body to probe Russian influence in Polish politics which critics say is unconstitutional and could be used to intimidate political opponents.
Backed by the ruling right-wing Law and Justice (PiS) party, the amended law was approved last week by Poland’s parliament with a narrow 235-214 majority.
The law allows the appointment of a nine-member commission by parliament — where PiS has a majority — who will have access to all government departments and documents to investigate Russian interference in Polish politics from 2007 to 2022.
But it has sparked criticism from the Polish opposition, which argues the law could be used to target its leader Donald Tusk — who was prime minister from 2007 to 2014 — ahead of an upcoming general election later this year. Tusk will lead the Civic Coalition party in that election.
Faced with mounting international pressure, Duda in June introduced several amendments to scrap some of the law’s most controversial provisions — including removing sanctions on people found by the ad hoc commission to have acted under Russia’s influence.
But the commission will still be able to present a negative opinion on a person’s ability to hold a public position, and critics say the amended legislation could still be used to stigmatize opposition politicians.
Government backers say the commission is needed to look into issues like Russian gas deals signed by Warsaw at the time Tusk was prime minister.
However, that deal was signed before Russia’s 2014 illegal annexation of Crimea, and Poland under the current PiS government continued to buy Russian gas until this year.
In June, the European Commission announced it was launching an infringement procedure against Poland over the Russian influence law.