Polish president signs 'Tusk Law' on undue Russian influence
WARSAW, May 29 (Reuters) - Poland's president said on Monday he would sign a bill to allow a panel to investigate whether the opposition Civic Platform (PO) party allowed the country to be unduly influenced by Russia and as a result too dependent on its fuel when it was in power.
The liberal PO, in government from 2007 to 2015, rejects the claims and says the law is designed to destroy support for its leader and former prime minister Donald Tusk ahead of an election scheduled for October or November.
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President Andrzej Duda said he would sign the bill because he believed it "should enter into force" but he also said he would ask the Constitutional Tribunal to examine criticism that the legislation is unconstitutional.
The bill would set up an investigative commission that could deliver an initial report in September. Opposition figures have nicknamed it Lex Tusk, using the Latin word for law.
"In a normal democratic country, somebody who is president of that country would never sign such a Stalin-esque law," PO lawmaker Marcin Kierwinski told private broadcaster TVN 24.
The Polish Judges' Association Iustitia said the law breached European Union values and could prompt more punitive EU measures over democratic backsliding in Poland. The U.S. ambassador to Poland, Mark Brzezinski, also voiced concerns.
"The U.S. government shares concerns about laws that may ostensibly reduce voters' ability to vote for those they want to vote for, outside of a clearly defined process in an independent court," he told private broadcaster TVN24 BiS.
Recent opinion polls showed PiS still enjoys the highest support among political parties - over 30% - but it may not win enough votes to command a majority in parliament.
The parliamentary 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 where they would be responsible for public funds for 10 years, effectively disqualifying them from public office.
Poland's dependence on Russian energy has progressively declined, even before Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022.
The construction of a liquefied natural gas (LNG) import terminal, allowing the import of non-Russian gas, started when Tusk was in power.
Also during Tusk's time in office, Poland signed a deal with Russia's Gazprom in 2010, which the official justification of the bill mentions.
Top state-controlled refiner PKN Orlen last month said it had terminated its contract with Russia's Tatneft after supplies were halted in February but it still uses Russian fuel in its Czech refineries. (Reporting by Alan Charlish, Anna Wlodarczak-Semczuk, Anna Koper and Marek Strzelecki; Editing by Robert Birsel, Barbara Lewis and Gareth Jones)