Polish Police Arrest Pro-Duda MPs Inside Presidential Palace As Constitutional Crisis Unfolds

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by Tyler Durden
Thursday, Jan 11, 2024 - 07:45 AM

There's a bizarre but potentially serious constitutional crisis unfolding in Poland currently, after former Polish interior minister Mariusz Kaminski and his deputy Maciej Wonsik were arrested over allegations of abuse of power. A court has also sought to bar them from office for at least five years, a ruling which they have ignored. 

The whole thing is set against the backdrop of a high-drama showdown between Poland’s new government of pro-EU Prime Minister Donald Tusk (only in office for a month now) and the now opposition Law and Justice party (PiS). Kaminski and Wonsik were actually arrested inside the presidential palace of President Andrzej Duda, ally of the previous right-wing government. 

PiS party supporters outside presidential palace, via Anadolu/picture alliance

PiS is calling the pair "political prisoners" after a court sentence them to two years in prison for abuse of power stemming from their stint leading an anti-corruption office in 2007. Their enemies have further charged that they've 'subverted democracy'. President Duda, however, had pardoned them for the crime back in 2015 - a pardon which he says remains valid and can't be nulled by the court's decision.

But Tusk has called the standoff "unbelievable" - also as angry PiS supporters gathered outside the presidential palace as the arrests unfolded. Tusk's "Civic Platform" party considers it an "equality before the law" situation for which no political official should be immune.

The other side says that pro-EU bureaucrats are wasting no time in using all the powers of the state to declare open season on anti-Brussels political enemies, however.

"There is no rulebook for the prime minister or interior minister on how to act when convicts are in the Presidential Palace. This is clearly taking advantage of a situation in which no one will use force against such an institution as the president," Tusk said at a tense press briefing.

Via CNN/Reuters: "Mariusz Kamiński & Maciej Wąsik have been barred from holding office for five years, but have essentially ignored the sentence."

According to a BBC description of Tuesday's events

The Polish president said in a televised address on Wednesday that he was deeply shaken by the two men being jailed, and described them as honest.

The two MPs have been stripped of their parliamentary mandates, but both they and President Duda insist they remain legally elected MPs because of the pardon.

On Monday evening, the court issued a warrant to police to detain the men. Despite this, Mr Duda invited both to Warsaw's Presidential Palace on Tuesday morning to attend a ceremony to swear in two of their former colleagues as presidential advisers.

Kaminski denounced efforts to undo his pardon: "We are dealing with a very serious state crisis. A grim dictatorship is being created," he decried.

Adding to the bizarreness of the whole episode, Kaminski on Wednesday declared he's initiating a hunger strike "as a political prisoner, from the first day of my imprisonment." However, somewhat comically the BBC notes that "Hunger strikes are not an uncommon form of protest in Poland, and they do not necessarily mean a refusal to accept all food and liquids."

Images of the arrest of two former high-ranking Duda officials shocked Poland's PiS supporters...

PiS party leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski has vowed "consequences" for the political enemies driving the anti-Duda spectacle. Within the rest of the European Union, liberal technocrats are likely salivating over the prospect of Tusk going gloves off in aggressively reversing prior 'controversial' Duda policies.