Polish president to sign Russian influence bill despite opposition protests

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WARSAW, May 29 (Reuters) – Poland’s president said on Monday he would sign off on a bill authorising a panel to investigate Russian influence despite opposition criticism it is witch hunt against government opponents in an election year.

The ruling nationalist Law and Justice (PiS) party says that the liberal opposition Civic Platform (PO) party allowed Poland to become dangerously dependent on Russian fossil fuels when the PO was in government from 2007 to 2015, raising questions about whether PO members were under Moscow’s sway.

PO rejects the suspicion saying it is aimed at eliminating PO leader and former prime minister Donald Tusk from the political scene ahead of elections scheduled for October or November.

Opposition figures call a bill to set up an investigative commission the “Lex Tusk”, using the Latin term for “law”.

President Andrzej Duda said he would sign off on it but would ask the Constitutional Tribunal to look at the law after it comes into force due to criticism it is unconstitutional.

“I am signing the act because I believe that it should enter into force, should start functioning,” Duda said.

The commission will 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 in which they are responsible for public funds for 10 years, effectively disqualifying them from public office.

The panel’s members would be chosen by parliament, where the PiS commands a narrow majority.

The bill has faced strong opposition from critics who say any attempt to disqualify opposition figures from government would damage democracy and it gives a public administrative body responsibility for functions that should be reserved for the courts.

PO lawmaker Marcin Kierwinski condemned Duda’s decision to sign the bill.

“In a normal democratic country, somebody who is president of that country would never sign such a Stalin-esque law,” he told private broadcaster TVN 24.

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