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May 29, 2024

Political Crisis Deepens As Poland’s President Pardons Jailed Former Ministers

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Jan 12, 2024

Poland is facing a deepening political crisis as President Andrzej Duda announced plans on Wednesday to pardon two jailed former ministers from the ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party convicted of corruption last year. The controversial move comes amid protests across Poland and a tense standoff between Duda and the new Prime Minister Donald Tusk.

President Duda Begins Pardon Process Despite Protests

President Duda launched pardon proceedings for former Interior Minister Mariusz Kamiński and former head of the country’s special services Maciej Wąsik on Wednesday, according to an announcement from his office [1]. Kamiński and Wąsik were sentenced to prison in 2023 on charges of illegally targeting opposition politicians while in power.

The pardon plans have sparked outrage from the opposition and critics who see it as an abuse of power to protect political allies. Tens of thousands gathered in Warsaw and other cities on Wednesday evening to protest the pardons in a march organized by Tusk’s Civic Platform party [2].

Despite the widespread protests, Duda remained defiant. “There is no consent in Poland to leaving innocent people in prison,” he stated on Wednesday [1].

Protesters with Polish and EU flags
Protesters with Polish and EU flags march against government policies. [Credit: Omar Marques/Getty Images]

Arrested Ex-Ministers Take Refuge in Presidential Palace

The controversial pardon plans come on the heels of chaotic scenes earlier this week when police attempted to detain Kamiński and Wąsik to enforce their prison sentences. Video showed the two men refusing to comply with police orders to willingly submit to arrest, instead retreating into the presidential palace where Duda granted them refuge [3].

For nearly 24 hours, police stood outside the gates of the palace demanding the former ministers be released into custody before eventually leaving empty-handed. Duda’s sheltering of convicted criminals has been slammed as an unprecedented violation of the rule of law. Tusk accused the president of orchestrating a “clearly staged provocation” [4].

Duda Seeks to Assert Power Over New Government

Analysts see Duda’s dramatic actions as an attempt to assert his authority in defiance of the new government led by longtime rival Tusk. Tusk returned to power as Prime Minister in late 2023 after his center-right Civic Platform defeated the ruling right-wing populist Law and Justice party.

Relations between Duda and Tusk have rapidly deteriorated, with the president refusing to appoint certain ministers nominated by Tusk and claiming the new government does not have democratic legitimacy [5].

“It’s clearly an attempt by Duda to flex his muscles,” said political scientist Anna Materska-Sosnowska. “He is trying to remind Tusk that he still holds significant power.” [6]

Ruling Party Calls for Protests and Early Elections

Law and Justice politicians have angrily denounced the new government and are demanding Duda dissolve parliament and call for early elections.

On Tuesday, a large crowd of PiS supporters gathered outside the presidential palace to pressure Duda to take action against Tusk. Law and Justice party leader Jarosław Kaczyński gave an impassioned speech accusing Tusk of representing “foreign interests” and leading a “fake government” [7].

Kaczyński called on supporters to continue protesting, stoking concerns that political tensions could boil over. So far demonstrations have remained peaceful, though there are worries they could eventually turn violent.

What Comes Next in this Constitutional Crisis?

With Duda and Tusk locked in a bitter feud over their competing claims to power, many fear Poland’s democracy is facing its greatest test since communism.

Most experts believe Duda lacks the legal authority to dissolve parliament and forcibly remove Tusk, despite cries from PiS loyalists. However, he does have the power to obstruct the new government through tactics like vetoing legislation and refusing to approve cabinet appointments [8].

Tusk could potentially move to impeach Duda if he goes too far. But with Law and Justice still controlling a majority in the Senate, attempts to remove the president are unlikely to advance.

Poland now faces an extended period of political instability with the possibility of further large-scale protests, institutional paralysis, and a constitutional crisis with no clear resolution. Although the risk of violence cannot be discounted, most hope calmer heads will eventually prevail.

The coming days and weeks will determine whether Duda backs down under pressure and allows the Tusk government to function, or if Poland’s democracy continues spiral towards disaster.

References

  1. https://www.reuters.com/world/europe/polish-president-moves-pardon-jailed-ex-ministers-deepening-turmoil-2024-01-11/
  2. https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2024-01-11/thousands-of-poles-protest-in-nationalist-led-march-against-tusk
  3. https://www.nytimes.com/2024/01/10/world/europe/poland-standoff-presidential-palace.html
  4. https://www.cnn.com/2024/01/10/europe/poland-pis-arrests-tusk-duda-tensions-intl/index.html
  5. https://unherd.com/thepost/is-poland-slipping-into-a-constitutional-crisis/
  6. https://balkaninsight.com/2024/01/10/poland-risks-political-chaos-as-new-government-faces-down-old-guard/
  7. https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2024-01-11/thousands-of-poles-protest-in-nationalist-led-march-against-tusk
  8. https://www.euractiv.com/section/politics/news/duda-faces-decision-to-pardon-mps-may-impact-cooperation-with-new-government/
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AiBot scans breaking news and distills multiple news articles into a concise, easy-to-understand summary which reads just like a news story, saving users time while keeping them well-informed.

To err is human, but AI does it too. Whilst factual data is used in the production of these articles, the content is written entirely by AI. Double check any facts you intend to rely on with another source.

By AiBot

AiBot scans breaking news and distills multiple news articles into a concise, easy-to-understand summary which reads just like a news story, saving users time while keeping them well-informed.

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