Convicted former PiS ministers excluded from parliament despite appeal from president

Two MPs from Poland’s former ruling Law and Justice (PiS) who were yesterday given prison sentences and banned from holding public office have been formally excluded from parliament by the speaker.

However, President Andrzej Duda, a PiS ally, has disputed that move, arguing that his decision to pardon the pair in 2015 still stands, despite the Supreme Court ruling it invalid earlier this year.

Marszałek Sejmu @szymon_holownia wydał postanowienia w sprawie stwierdzenia wygaśnięcia mandatów poselskich Mariusza Kamińskiego i Macieja Wąsika. Odpowiednia korespondencja została również wysłana do Pana Prezydenta @AndrzejDuda.

— Sejm RP🇵🇱 (@KancelariaSejmu) December 21, 2023

This afternoon, the chancellery of the Sejm, the more powerful lower house of parliament, announced that speaker Szymon Hołownia “has issued decisions regarding the expiration of the parliamentary mandates held by Mariusz Kamiński and Maciej Wąsik”.

Kamiński served in the PiS government as minister in charge of the security services (2015-2023) and interior minister (2019-2023). Wąsik was his deputy minister during that time.

Yesterday, the pair were handed two-year prison sentences and five-year bans from public office in relation to a long-running abuse-of-power case dating back to their time running the Central Anticorruption Bureau (CBA) during an earlier PiS government in 2005 to 2007.

Two members of the former PiS government have been given prison sentences and banned from holding public office

— Notes from Poland 🇵🇱 (@notesfrompoland) December 20, 2023

Duda, however, immediately rejected yesterday’s ruling, noting that he pardoned Kamiński and Wąsik in 2015 (one day after they joined the second PiS government) after they had been initially convicted of abuse of power a few months earlier.

This year, the Supreme Court found that pardon to have been invalid because it was issued while the pair were still appealing their conviction. But the very same week, another of Poland’s top courts, the Constitutional Tribunal (TK), ruled that the Supreme Court had no right to rule on the president’s powers.

Yesterday, after Kamiński and Wąsik’s appeal had been rejected and their sentences confirmed, Duda invited them to the presidential palace to express his view that “the 2015 pardon was executed in accordance with the law, which was confirmed by the Constitutional Tribunal, and remains in legal force”.

This morning, the president also addressed a letter to Hołownia informing him that “there are no grounds for expiring the [parliamentary] mandate of Mariusz Kamiński and Maciej Wąsik” because no court can question the constitutional prerogatives of the president.

W związku z podaną przez Pana Marszałka informacją o planowanym wydaniu postanowień o wygaszeniu mandatów Panom Posłom, należy jednoznacznie stwierdzić, że na skutek zastosowania prawa łaski wobec Pana Mariusza Kamińskiego i Pana Macieja Wąsika, nie zachodzą przesłanki do…

— Kancelaria Prezydenta (@prezydentpl) December 21, 2023

However, Hołownia – who is one of the leaders of the coalition that last week ousted PiS from power and formed a new government – rejected Duda’s appeal. Speaking to journalists this morning, he argued that he had no choice in the matter.

“I have no interest in terminating the mandates of any MPs, because it is never in the interest of the speaker of the Sejm,” he said, quoted by broadcaster TVN. “[But] our position – the legislative office of the Sejm and all lawyers who support us in assessing this situation – is that these mandates have already expired.”

Hołownia argued that he therefore “cannot make any other decision” than to sign the documents, which simply “confirm officially the fact that these mandates expired at the time [yesterday’s] ruling was made”.

“If I did not perform this action, I would incur criminal liability, and I do not intend to expose myself to it,” he continued, adding that he would “respond to [Duda’s] letter in a polite and very specific manner today” explaining this position.

Hołownia: Nie zgadzam się z panem prezydentem, na jego list w sposób uprzejmy i bardzo konkretny jeszcze dziś odpowiem#300POLITYKALIVE

— 300Polityka (@300polityka) December 21, 2023

The PiS parliamentary caucus, however, adopted a resolution condemning Hołownia’s actions as having “no grounds”. They also declared that Kamiński and Wąsik’s conviction was “of a political nature”.

Wąsik himself told news website wPolityce that he and Kamiński would issue an appeal to the Supreme Court against Hołownia’s decision, which they regard as “invalid”.

Meanwhile, Roman Giertych, an MP from the new ruling coalition, announced that he had submitted a request for a court to order the detention of Kamiński and Wąsik so that they can begin serving their prison sentences.

Wniosek o zatrzymanie i doprowadzenie do aresztu (zgodny z nowymi przepisami kodeksu karnego wykonawczego uchwalonymi przez PiS) już złożony. Czekamy na zatrzymanie byłych posłów PiS.

— Roman Giertych (@GiertychRoman) December 21, 2023

Notes from Poland is run by a small editorial team and published by an independent, non-profit foundation that is funded through donations from our readers. We cannot do what we do without your support.

Main image credit: Jakub Szymczuk/KPRP

Daniel Tilles is editor-in-chief of Notes from Poland. He has written on Polish affairs for a wide range of publications, including Foreign PolicyPOLITICO EuropeEUobserver and Dziennik Gazeta Prawna.

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