Polish government bets big on anti-Russia law

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is nathan allen-lee A doctoral researcher at the UCL School of Slavonic and East European Studies and a freelance journalist covering Poland and Central and Eastern Europe.

Jarosław Kaczyński, the longtime leader of Poland̵7;s Law and Justice party (PiS), is doubling down on his all-or-nothing position that the upcoming election will be won by the opposition end of poland The end of Poland.

And for this harsher position, the Sejm parliament passed a new law on 26 May, establishing a commission to investigate “those who serve Moscow’s interests”.

Under this new law, if the commission finds a person guilty, it can impose penalties, including a ban from public office for a decade. Thus, President Andrzej Duda’s quick ratification just days later has raised fears that the ruling PiS could use the law to move against key opposition leaders in the run-up to the October election.

This new commission is a gamble for PiS to organize large-scale “pro-democracy” protests as well as attract international reaction. and with duda accept criticism The risky move, just days after signing it into law, reflects the party’s nervousness ahead of the upcoming vote.

The ratification of the law resulted in criticism from all sides, winning little sympathy for the PiS at a time when Poland is becoming an increasingly important actor within the European Union and NATO.

United States Department of State quickly expressed his “concern”that the new law “could be misused to interfere with Poland’s free and fair elections.”

Meanwhile, Brussels same” expressed concern,” indicating that “immediate action” would be taken if this new commission were to proceed on first political opponents. announcement of Violation proceedings against Poland will start this week. This tension only adds to the ongoing “rule of law” dispute, which saw the EU freeze more than €35 billion in COVID-19 recovery funds, making tensions between Brussels and Warsaw less and less visible.

So, what is it that makes this political maneuvering such a hot-button issue?

The answer lies in the context of Poland’s controversial elections and disregard for constitutional due process, which has already earned the law the infamous “Lex Tusk” nickname, as the new commission is widely seen as a direct threat to Donald Tusk. is the leader of the main opposition Citizens’ Alliance (KO) party and Kaczyński’s old personal rival.

In November 2022, rumors about a possible commission had already started swirling, with Janusz Kowalski, a deputy minister and MP from the ruling coalition strongly where did it go“We will put the pro-Russia Donald Tusk before the State Tribunal, and then we will put him in jail” – words that have justified the growing concern of the opposition.

The link between Tusk and the Kremlin has been a mainstay of PiS rhetoric for years – though it has largely remained outside the purview of legal action. And Tusk has also drawn fire for a friendly attitude toward the EU and Germany, which Kaczynski has long observed, “Tusk is against whenever Poland’s vital interest is at stake.”

Former European Council President Donald Tusk | Wojtek Radwanski/AFP via Getty Images

The rivalry had also taken on a personal aspect for Kaczynski since 2010, when his brother, former President Lech Kaczynski, died in the “Smolensk air disaster” in Russia during Tusk’s term as prime minister. An investigation into the mishandling in relation to the accident is still ongoing, although informal allegations of “treason” have already been made. leveled against Member of Tusk’s former government.

Tusk, for his part, has been an outspoken critic of Kaczynski’s “caricature of dictatorship”, and Promise that by the October election, “Poland would be free of fear, free of contempt, free of Kaczyński.”

While this explains the premise of the new law and its threat to Tusk, one still has to ask, why now? And why is Kaczynski willing to risk such a controversial move?

The simplest answer is that PiS – as Kaczyński himself suggests – “cannot afford to lose this election.” and with a Quick look at pollsThe risky move begins to make sense.

Support for PiS currently sits at 35 percent – ​​well below the threshold to maintain a governing majority – while the centrist opposition, dominated by Tusk’s KO and the newly formed Third Way coalition, is receiving a combined nearly 41 percent of the vote.

poland national parliament election voting polls

For more voting data from across Europe visit Political opinion poll,

Thus, Kaczynski’s PiS is caught in an existential struggle, which may explain their all-or-nothing approach. However, given the widespread outcry as well as Duda’s own proposed concessions, the law appears to be backfired – regardless of its initial intent.

Undoubtedly, the coming weeks will be crucial for the ruling party, but with this week phenomenal performance And this Opposition mobilized Taken together, it is clear that the desire for democracy in Poland is not yet over.