Free Elections in Poland at Stake

Odilon Redon: Le Silence // public domain

Under the pretext of investigating the Russia’s influence in Poland, the newly formed polish parliamentary commission has been granted the authority to silence the opposition and impose a ban on individuals holding public positions for up to 10 years. In the light of the upcoming fall parliamentary elections, this tool strikes at those seeking to run in the elections or get appointed. The decision undermines the very principles of the rule of law by depriving the right to a fair trial for those in question.

Nine members of the commission are to be appointed by the lower chamber of the Parliament, Sejm, which is currently controlled by the PiS party. Consequently, the commission, consisting of PiS party representatives, will be only required to possess “the necessary knowledge regarding the functioning of public authorities” in order to render unappealable “judgments” that bypass an independent court. The commission chooses the topics at its own discretion and is empowered to have unrestricted access to all documents in the country, including materials such as court records.

Under the new law, professionals legally bound to maintain confidentiality, such as advocacy or journalistic, may be questioned and requested to reveal confidential information. The commission has broad powers and does not only target political figures, but also independent journalists or activists, who appear inconvenient for those in power.

In practice, the parliament takes over the competencies of the judiciary system, rendering it unconstitutional, undemocratic, and again contrary to European law.

This tool allows the ruling PiS party to easily exclude political rivals and control the political situation in the country ahead of the most significant election since 1989. The fading PiS party is afraid that the ground is burning under their feet seeing the opposition growing stronger.

It is not a coincidence that the creation of the commission aimed at eliminating political opponents was legitimised by examining Russian influences. Poland has consistently supported Ukraine since day one. Polish citizens hold strong sentiments regarding their Ukrainian neighbors fighting for their sovereignty and European security. This propaganda narrative allows the PiS party to deftly manipulate the emotions of Poles and unjustly accuse opposition representatives of having ties to Russia as part of their election campaign.

Some are concerned that this decision puts an end to free elections in Poland. Undoubtably, it has also drawn international criticism.

The question is: how will the European Union react to Poland’s further step towards authoritarianism, consequently opposing democratic European values? European Commissioner for Justice, Didier Reynders, has expressed concern over President Andrzej Duda’s signing of the law, while the Commission’s Vice President for Values and Transparency, Věra Jourová, has indicated that immediate action will be taken if necessary to address the violation of the rule of law.

The United States, a close ally of Poland, has also commented on the situation. U.S. State Department spokesman Matthew Miller condemned the new legislation as something that “could be misused to interfere with Poland’s free and fair elections.”

Unyielding, the PiS party is determined to retain its grip on power, even if it means further disregarding the fundamental principles of democracy.

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