Polish Ruling Party Moves Ahead With Probe Targeting Opposition Leader Tusk

(Bloomberg) -- Poland’s ruling party moved ahead with a controversial panel designed to investigate opposition leader Donald Tusk weeks before an election, defying warnings by the US and European Union about interfering with the vote.

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The ruling Law & Justice party wielded its majority in parliament on Wednesday to select the members of the panel. Government spokesman Piotr Muller said earlier today that it wasn’t clear whether the commission would start its proceedings before the election.

Law & Justice’s powerful leader, Jaroslaw Kaczynski, has focused the party’s campaign to win a third term in power on targeting Tusk, including accusations that the former premier facilitated Russian influence during his tenure from 2007 to 2014. Tusk, who subsequently served as president of the European Council, has dismissed the accusations as absurd.

Parliament’s approval of the panel in May triggered swift criticism from the US and EU, prompting President Andrzej Duda to introduce measures to roll back some of the legislative measures. The European Commission said the measures still “raise serious concerns as regards its compliance with the EU law,” spokesman Christian Wigand said Tuesday, citing a letter from Justice Commissioner Didier Reynders to the Polish government.

“Should the committee move to act in the context of the forthcoming elections, the commission will not hesitate to take the next step in the infringement procedure,” Wigand said.

Law & Justice has been struggling to expand its lead in the polls, which show that it may fall short of a majority after the Oct. 15 election. The party has intensified its targeting of Tusk, including a campaign dubbed “Tusk means unemployment.”

Among the members of the panel is historian Slawomir Cenckiewicz, co-author of a television documentary aired on state-owned broadcaster TVP, which included accusations that Tusk built close ties with Russia under Vladimir Putin. The opposition pilloried the production as biased.

--With assistance from Maciej Martewicz.

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