WARSAW, Poland (news agencies) — The fate of two Polish opposition politicians became the focus Thursday of a running feud between the country’s new pro-European Union government and conservative opposition as the sides disagreed whether they can remain lawmakers.
The weeks-old government of Prime Minister Donald Tusk has moved to reverse policies of his predecessors that were deemed harmful and led to clashes with the EU, especially in the judiciary.
However, the previously ruling right-wing Law and Justice party, frustrated over its loss in the October parliamentary elections, has been protesting the moves.
As the lower house of parliament, or Sejm, convened on Thursday, officials and experts were dived on whether two senior Law and Justice lawmakers, who served in the previous government, can attend the proceedings.
Parliament Speaker Szymon Holownia had stripped them of their mandates after they were convicted in December of abuse of power. They were released from prison on Tuesday, after President Andrzej Duda pardoned them and after spending two weeks behind bars.
Law and Justice and their ally Duda insist the two — former Interior Minister Mariusz Kamiński and his former deputy, Maciej Wąsik — may continue to sit in the Sejm. The two were not present at the session start on Thursday.
Experts say the dispute exposes the extent to which Law and Justice had bent Poland’s legal system to serve its own political interests during its eight years in power that ended in December.
Tusk recently criticized Law and Justice, saying it puts its political goals above the law.
“We are facing the need to reconstruct the legal order in a way that will put an end to the constant and glaring conflicts of interpretation,” Tusk told a new conference this week.
Kamiński and Wąsik were convicted of abuse of power and forging documents for actions taken in 2007, when they served in an earlier Law and Justice-led government. Critics point to Duda’s pardon of the two in 2015 as an example of his disregard for Poland’s laws and acting in the interest of Law and Justice.
In June, Poland’s Supreme Court overturned the 2015 pardons and ordered a retrial. Kamiński and Wąsik were convicted again and sentenced in December to two years in prison each. Police arrested them while they were at Duda’s presidential palace, apparently seeking protection.
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