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Poland's Electoral Inquisition

A new commission to root out "Russian influence" in Poland violates every fundamental principle of the rule of law, and is clearly designed to prevent leading opposition candidates from running in this fall's general election. The country's illiberal ruling party is growing desperate and more brazen.

WARSAW – Poland’s ruling party, Law and Justice (PiS), has now taken another step toward full-scale autocracy. With parliamentary elections approaching this fall, PiS has drafted a law to create a special commission to investigate Russian influence between 2007 and 2022, a period that includes the opposition party Civic Platform’s time in power (2007-15). Worse, Polish President Andrzej Duda has already signed the bill, while referring it to the PiS-subservient Constitutional Tribunal for a rubber-stamp review.

The commission will be able to ban people from holding public office for up to ten years if it concludes that they have ever done anything “under Russian influence.” Nothing more needs to be proven. It will issue its full report by September 17 – as if the summer vacation season provides enough time to examine 15 years of Polish politics.

Seeing the move as an obvious and brazen attempt to head off any electoral challenge by Civic Platform’s Donald Tusk, the opposition has called the legislation “Lex Tusk” (“Tusk Law”). This is not mere speculation. State Secretary Janusz Kowalski has openly admitted that he hopes “the result of the commission’s work will be to bring Donald Tusk to the State Tribunal.”