Polish President Andrzej Duda said Monday he will sign a controversial law seeking to stem Russian influence in the country's politics. File Photo by Przemyslaw Keler/KPRP/UPI | License Photo
May 29 (UPI) -- Polish President Andrzej Duda said Monday he will sign a controversial new law backers say is meant to stem Russian influence in the country's politics but which others see as a means to stifle opposition.
The bill states that people suspected of being influenced by Russia could be prevented from running for public office for 10 years -- a move that could worsen Warsaw's rocky relationship with the leadership of the European Union.
Duda promised Monday to sign the law after it was approved by Parliament in a close vote following an intense debate on Friday. While Duda and the bill's supporters said it will help root out Russian sympathizers, opponents claim it's a ruse that would lead to harassment of opposition parties.
"We have a dramatic situation behind our eastern border," Duda said, pointing to Russia's invasion of neighboring Ukraine, which has led to millions of refugees pouring into Poland. "We have the Russian aggression against Ukraine, we have the war, we have the economic and energy crisis triggered by it and we have a number of negative factors."
Duda's ruling Law and Justice party is the main backer of the measure. While the president assured that the bill would be examined by Poland's top court, the Constitutional Tribunal, opponents said the court is currently made up of Law and Justice loyalists and is not an appropriate backstop.
The president promised that the new commission would be open in its investigations, which could lead to increased confidence among the public.
"I am confident that the transparency of action that will be taken by the commission's members, the questions they will pose to those summoned before the commission, to the people who used to be responsible for our affairs, will be of key importance in combating various illegal lobbying activities, and attempts to influence Polish affairs and Polish interests," he said.
Many political figures, however, predicted the government will use the commission to harass opposition leader Donald Tusk and his Civic Coalition Party.
"They want to investigate the alleged 'Russian influence' on the basis of 'law,' which they would not be ashamed of in Moscow," tweeted Warsaw Mayor Rafał Trzaskowski, a member of Tusk's party. "And the president signs it. Another proof that the best antidote to 'Russian influence' in Poland will be removing this team from power. Let's do it this fall."