WARSAW, Poland (AP) — Poland’s lawmakers voted Friday to approve an amended but divisive law on Russian influences believed to be targeting the opposition and criticized by the U.S. and the European Union.
The law was proposed in May by Poland’s ruling right-wing Law and Justice party and critics see it as primarily targeting opposition leader and former Prime Minister Donald Tusk, before a parliamentary election scheduled for this fall. Following criticism, President Andrzej Duda proposed urgent amendments to tone it down.
The lower house, or Sejm, voted 235-214 with four abstentions to reject the Senate’s veto to the draft law amended by Duda. It only now requires Duda’s signature to take effect.
The amended bill calls for a commission to check whether between 2007 and 2022 politicians have taken decisions under Russia’s influence that could threaten Poland’s security. Duda has said it is needed for transparency’s sake and to prevent Russia from influencing Poland’s stability in the future.
Poland is supporting neighboring Ukraine to fight against Russia’s full-scale invasion and is supplying weapons, humanitarian aid and political backing for Kyiv. That has drawn harsh comments from Moscow.
The previous, more restrictive law is currently in effect, but the commission members haven’t been chosen yet.
When it takes effect, the law will create a powerful committee by experts but not lawmakers to investigate Russian influence in Poland and name politicians who allegedly allowed them, thus barring them in practice from holding public positions. However, critics say it is primarily targeting Tusk, who also served as a top EU official.
Law and Justice accuses Tusk of having been too friendly toward Russia and President Vladimir Putin as prime minister between 2007 and 2014, and making gas deals favorable to Moscow before he went to Brussels to be the president of the European Council between 2014 and 2019.
Law and Justice party leader Jarosław Kaczyński and Tusk are longtime political rivals.
Critics say the law violates the Polish Constitution and could keep government opponents from holding public office by having a negative effect on their eligibility, especially in a parliamentary election later this year. Amendments by Duda, who holds a law doctorate, allowed for the commission verdict to be appealed to court.
The U.S. State Department and EU authorities have strongly criticized the law in its first version and expressed concerns about Poland’s democracy. The 27-member EU, which Poland joined in 2004, also threatened to take measures, if it became fully clear that such a law would undermine democratic standards.
When Duda proposed the amendments in June, he also bowed partially to critics and sent the bill to the Constitutional Tribunal for a review for conformity with the supreme law. That verdict is still pending.
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