May 18. 2024. 9:46

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Two Polish ex-ministers sentenced for abuse of power to run for MEP seats


Mariusz Kamiński and Maciej Wąsik, two former ministers sentenced for the abuse of power and pardoned by current President Andrzej Duda, will run in the European elections, the conservative Law and Justice (PiS) party announced Thursday.

Kamiński and Wąsik were sentenced by the court in late 2023 and stripped of their parliamentary mandates for abusing their prerogatives in the posts they held before being nominated for their ministerial posts.

The PiS (ECR), to which both MPs belonged and which lost power in Poland after the October elections, defended both ex-MPs and denied their guilt. The party has sought to use the case against the two former MPs to highlight its accusations that the new government of Prime Minister Donald Tusk is trampling on the rule of law.

After being arrested by force, PiS members said Kamiński and Wąsik were political prisoners and demanded their immediate release. A protest in defence of the two former lawmakers took place in Warsaw in January.

The PiS also claimed that the two politicians had been tortured during their arrest and that Kamiński had been forcibly fed despite being on hunger strike.

Duda had already pardoned Kamiński and Wąsik in 2015, which most experts said at the time was against the law, as no verdict had yet been issued in their case. After the verdict was handed down in 2023 and the men were arrested, the president issued another pardon, which resulted in the politicians’ release.

Duda and PiS leaders then insisted that the two were still MPs, despite a decision by Szymon Hołownia (Poland 2050/Renew), the speaker of parliament, to declare their seats vacant, as the Polish constitution bars people with convictions from serving as MPs.

As a result, earlier this week, Kamiński and Wąsik testified at the prosecutor’s office on charges of illegal participation in parliamentary work.

On leaving the prosecutor’s office building, Kamiński told journalists that he considered the charges to be “political repression” and “direct action ordered by (Donald Tusk’s ruling party) Civic Platform”.

Maciej Wąsik said the action against him and Kamiński was a “personal revenge” from Tusk.

PiS hopes that the two men’s popularity in recent months will help the party win votes in the June elections.

Most Poles (79%) are opposed to Kamiński and Wąsik running for a seat in the European Parliament, according to a poll by the Pollster Institute for the Super Express tabloid, and only 21% would like to see them in the hemicycle.

“Wąsik and Kamiński do not have a specified status in the public administration. On the other hand, it is hard to say how they could contribute to the European Parliament’s work or their competence for the job,” policy analyst Kazimierz Kik told the Polish Press Agency (PAP), commenting on the poll’s results.

(Aleksandra Krzysztoszek | Euractiv.pl)

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