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TOPIC: polish elections

FOCUS: Russia-Ukraine War

Fear Or Fear-Mongering? What's Lurking Behind Poland's "Wagner Panic"

The presence of Russian Wagner paramilitary troops near the Polish border has sent the country's prime minister into a panic, while on the campaign trail. But are worries about the presence of a mere 100 mercenaries justified or is it somehow part of Mateusz Morawiecki's scare tactics, as in 2015?


WARSAW — The presence of an estimated 100 Wagner mercenaries near Belarus’s border with Poland has sent the country's leader into a panic. Though many who watched the Wagner group stage a failed coup in Russia believe that Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki is being reasonably cautious, his recent behavior surrounding the Russian mercenaries has been called thoughtless and irresponsible by others.

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Traveling across Poland during his party’s electoral campaign, Morawiecki has made multiple references to the threat represented by the mercenaries sent in recent weeks to the Grodno region of Belarus, near the Polish border, for joint exercises with the Belarusian army.

Apart from Poland, Belarus also shares a western border with Lithuania. Our two countries are connected by the Suwalki gap, an ill-defined 60-100 km strip of land that Morawiecki and others say the Wagnerites want to exploit. However, in neighboring Vilnius, the atmosphere around Wagner has been cautious, but not more than that. The same can be said of nearby Latvia.

Yevgeny Prigozhin, the head of the Wagner group, and a war criminal who recently tried to overthrow Russian President Vladimir Putin, must be delighted with Morawiecki’s response. Moving 100 mercenaries was enough to send the head of the government in the fifth-largest EU country into a tailspin.

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Sławomir Mentzen: The Tiktok Star Leading Poland’s Rising Far-Right Party

With Poland's parliamentary election approaching, a controversial far-right political alliance, Konfederacja, has made its way to third place in national opinion polls. With a series of past scandals, a strong presence on social media and steadily increasing numbers in the polls, Konfederacja and party leader Sławomir Mentzen may be headed for a king-making role.

Sławomir Mentzen, a 36-year old former tax advisor and one of the leaders of far right Polish political alliance Konfederacja, has emerged as a star personality ahead of Polish parliamentary elections, scheduled for autumn 2023.

As his party has risen from the margins of Polish politics to a potential kingmaker, Mentzen's image has shifted from that of a relative unknown to a burgeoning force within the country’s current political climate.

He has never held any elected government office, but has been active in the far-right political scene since 2017, when he served as vice chairman of Janusz Korwin-Mikke’s New Hope party. Mentzen took hold of Konfederacja in Oct. 2022, after then-leader Korwin-Mikke announced his resignation as the party’s chair. Korwin-Mikke made international headlines for doing a Nazi salute in the European Parliament, referring to migrants as “human garbage" and for justifying the gender wage gap by saying that women are “weaker” and “less intelligent” than men.

Konfederacja has become a major player in Poland, rising from around 7% support to as much as 14.5%, based on recent polls published in the national newspaper Rzeczpospolita. Some of Mentzen's success can be attributed to his strong presence on TikTok, where he currently has the largest following of any Polish politician on the platform, with over 770 million followers. Many of his short videos are viewed millions of times.

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Lex Tusk? How Poland’s Controversial "Russian Influence" Law Will Subvert Democracy

Since creating a controversial commission against "Russian influence", Polish President Andrzej Duda has faced criticism from the United States and the European Union. Duda has since offered to make several changes to the law, but several experts in Brussels remain unconvinced that the law will not become a witch hunt ahead of the upcoming elections.

This story was updated on June 8, 2023 at 1:30 p.m. local time


WARSAW — Poland’s new Commission for investigating Russian influence, which President Andrzej Duda signed into law last week, will be able to summon representatives of any company for inquiry. It has sparked a major controversy in Polish politics, as political opponents of the government warn that the Commission has been given near absolute power to investigate and punish any citizen, business or organization.

And opposition politicians are expected to be high on the list of would-be suspects, starting with Donald Tusk, who is challenging the ruling PiS government to return to the presidency next fall. For that reason, it has been sardonically dubbed: Lex Tusk.

On Wednesday, the European Commission launched legal action against Poland over the highly controversial law. Brussels fears the law could be used to target opposition politicians in the run-up to Poland's general election, which takes place later this year.

Indeed, University of Warsaw law professor Michal Romanowski notes that the interests of any firm can be considered favorable to Russia. “These are instruments which the likes of Putin and Orban would not be ashamed of," Romanowski said.

The law on the Commission for examining Russian influences has "atomic" prerogatives sewn into it. Nine members of the Commission with the rank of secretary of state will be able to summon virtually anyone, with the powers of severe punishment.

Under the new law, these Commissioners will become arbiters of nearly absolute power, and will be able to use the resources of nearly any organ of the state, including the secret services, in order to demand access to every available document. They will be able to prosecute people for acts which were not prohibited at the time they were committed.

Their prerogatives are broader than that of the President or the Prime Minister, wider than those of any court. And there is virtually no oversight over their actions.

Nobody can feel safe. This includes companies, their management, lawyers, journalists, and trade unionists.

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Why Poland's Male-Run, Far-Right Party Is Popular With Educated Women

Similar to recent breakthroughs of right-wing parties in other countries, Poland's anti-immigrant political party has a somewhat different formula that has found surprising support among professional women. And Konfederacja may be decisive in next fall's national elections.


For years, Polish politics has largely been a head-to-head battle between the Catholic, conservative Law and Justice (PiS) party, and its pro-European centrist rival, Civic Platform (PO). But now a young far-right party has broken through ahead of next fall's national elections, promising to shake up both politics and society at large.

The emerging party is called Konfederacja, and its rise since launching six years ago largely echos other recent right-wing upstarts in Italy, Greece, Spain and beyond. Yet experts note that this is also a uniquely Polish phenomenon, where everything from family policy to the war in Ukraine follows its own particular logic.

Since regaining the presidency in 2015, the conservative PiS has passed some of the world's most restrictive abortion laws, and clashed with the European Union on climate action and LGBTQ+ rights. But among these controversial policies, there has been the widely popular "500+" program, which provides a stipend of 500 zloty ($119) for every child within a family, and has become a staple of the party’s platform.

In response, the PO opposition has introduced its own social programs, including monthly allowances to women returning from maternity leave, which was a stark departure from the centrist party that had first emerged as a stern defender of the free market. Another small left-wing party has also proposed generous new paternity leave benefits.

At a PiS convention on May 14, longtime party leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski announced that the government will be increasing childcare benefits from 500 zloty to 800 ($119 to $191), and that medication will be free for Poles under 18 and over the age of 65. In the same statement, the party leader also promised to remove tolls along national highways.

This rush to allocate social spending has created an opening for Konfederacja, which describes itself as an “anti-system,” nationalist and right-wing party — but also decidedly pro-free-market and opposed to government subsidies. The party's positioning has now begun to pay off, just ahead of the elections slated for either October or November.

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Bartosz T Wielinski

Exploiting Auschwitz — How Poland's Ruling Party Reached A New Low

Poland's ruling party has used the Nazi concentration camp, which was located in a Polish town, in one of its political campaigns to sully its opponents. It's the latest step that the ruling government is taking to attack an opposition march planned for this Sunday against a law that some say threatens democracy.


WARSAW — The short video ad hit social media on Wednesday. It begins with a clip of the railroad of Auschwitz-Birkenau, where Jews from all of Nazi-occupied Europe were transported. It is the place where those deemed unfit to work — including the elderly and mothers with children — were taken to gas chambers and murdered with zyklon B. In another shot, the release shows a clip of Auschwitz’s gates with their mocking inscription — “Arbeit Macht Frei" (Work will set you free.)

It is against this backdrop that Poland's right-wing ruling Law and Justice party (PiS) chose to show a recent tweet made by Polish journalist Tomasz Lis, who criticized the ruling party’s controversial anti-Russian investigative committee, stating “there will be a chamber for Duda and Kaczor”.

In his tweet, Lis was referring to criticisms from the Polish opposition that the new committee, also being referred to as the “Tusk Law”, will be used to target political rivals, rather than Russian colluders. Lis has since apologized for his statement, and the tweet has been removed from his social media.

“Is this the slogan you want to march under?” — asks the speaker in the advertisement, as the screen shows the date of June 4th. This is how PiS is reacting to the mass mobilization of Poles, who have agreed to come together and demonstrate against its anti-democratic policies in Warsaw.

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FOCUS: Russia-Ukraine War
Bartosz T. Wielinski

Why Poland's Ruling Party Has Suddenly Turned On Ukraine — With The Wounds Of History

The Polish government has recently demanded official apologies from Kyiv (which is busy fighting off the Russian invasion) for historic war crimes committed by Ukrainian nationalists against ethnic Poles during World War II. The ruling PiS party is up to its old tricks of scapegoating for votes.


WARSAW — This was no mistake, no slip-of-the tongue. In the midst of rising tensions between the otherwise close allies, Lukasz Jasina, the spokesman for the Polish Foreign Ministry was unequivocally demanding that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky issue a public apology to Poland for historic crimes in the Volhynia region. In that ugly chapter of World War II, Ukrainian nationalists killed up to 100,000 ethnic Poles, including many women and children, in what is widely considered an act of ethnic cleansing.

Jasina's statement, which appeared on May 19 in Onet.pl, Poland's largest online news platform, resulted in exactly what he wanted: a declaration that Poland has stopped unconditionally supporting the Ukrainian war effort, and a forecast that Polish-Ukrainian relations will emerge as a new issue ahead of this coming fall's national elections.

His statements also generated intrigue, especially since Jasina doesn’t belong to PiS, Poland’s conservative ruling party. Nevertheless, the statement was intentional — and has pushed Poland into a diplomatic frenzy, prompting a reaction from Vasyl Zvarych, the Ukrainian Ambassador to Poland.

This is exactly what PiS leaders wanted to happen.

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