What Consequences Will Detention of Two Politicians in Poland's Presidential Palace Have?

Friday, 12 January 2024

In December, former Minister of Internal Affairs of Poland Mariusz Kamiński and his deputy Maciej Wasik were sentenced to two years in prison in the "land scandal" case. Based on this decision, Marshal of the Sejm Szymon Hołownia has issued orders stating the expiry of their parliamentary mandates.

Later, they were arrested in the presidential palace, taking advantage of the fact that the head of state had to leave it. The serious political consequences of these events are discussed in the article by Yurii Panchenko, European Pravda's editor – Arrests in Presidential Palace: How Political Crisis Leads Poland to Snap Elections.

This is a quite old case. The first accusations against the head of the Central Anti-Corruption Bureau (CAB), Mariusz Kamiński, and his deputy Maciej Wasik were made in 2009. They were accused of exceeding their powers in the Lepper case and for forging documents.

Kamiński and Wasik led an operation with an undercover person, who was supposed to bribe Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Agriculture Andrzej Lepper in exchange for changing the status of an agricultural plot in the Warmian-Masurian Voivodeship.

This scandal led to Lepper's dismissal from the government, the coalition's collapse, and snap elections and Civic Platform led by current Prime Minister Donald Tusk has come to power.

In 2015, shortly after winning the presidential elections, Andrzej Duda granted amnesty to Kamiński and Wasik. However, he did so before the final court ruling, making this amnesty questionable.

In particular, the Supreme Court later deemed this decision illegal, but the Constitutional Tribunal held the opposite view.

From 2019 to November 2023, Mariusz Kamiński headed the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Poland.

Last month, the Warsaw District Court made a final decision in the case, finding Kamiński and Wasik guilty. The Sejm deprived them from their parliamentary mandates.

On 9 January, we could witness events typical for some third-world countries, but certainly not for an EU and NATO member state.

President Andrzej Duda invited Kamiński and Wasik to participate in the appointment ceremony of new advisers, in the morning at the presidential palace. The two convicted remained in the presidential palace, considering themselves protected from arrest, following the ceremony.

They were arrested, however, on that very say, just after President Andrzej Duda had left the palace to meet with the leader of democratic Belarus, Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya.

According to media reports, the exit from the Belweder Palace was blocked by a bus to prevent President Duda's urgent return.

Thus, by raising the stakes in the standoff with the new government, Andrzej Duda got a loud slap.

What consequences will the new crisis have?

Andrzej Duda has initiated a new pardon procedure for Kamiński and Wasik. He interprets his pardon as confirmation of innocence, insisting that there is no reason for the Marshal to strip Kamiński and Wasik of their mandates.

What can the president do in this situation? MPs from president's party Law and Justice already claim the president's readiness to veto all adopted bills until Kamiński and Wasik return to the Sejm.

The new coalition does not have the constitutional majority needed to overcome the presidential veto, so the political crisis in the country may enter a much more dangerous phase.

Polish politicians do not rule out early elections.

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