“In our view, she doesn’t exist”: PiS condemns own politician for taking seat of convicted former minister

Monika Pawłowska, a member of the Law and Justice (PiS) party, has taken over the parliamentary seat of Mariusz Kamiński, one of the PiS politicians who lost his mandate due to receiving a criminal conviction.

Her decision has, however, prompted criticism from within the party, which has consistently argued that Kamiński is still an MP because he received a presidential pardon before being finally convicted. PiS figures have called for Pawłowska not to be recognised as an MP.

The development represents the latest twist in the long-running case of Kamiński and Maciej Wąsik, who served as ministers in the PiS government from 2015 to 2023.

They were stripped of their parliamentary mandates and formally excluded from parliament by the speaker after receiving final convictions in December for abusing their powers during a corruption investigation.

But they and PiS-aligned President Andrzej Duda argue those convictions should never have been issued because Duda pardoned Kamiński and Wąsik in 2015. However, last year a Supreme Court chamber ruled that that pardon was invalid and this year it rejected an appeal by Kamiński against his removal from parliament.

Odpowiadając na pismo Marszałka Sejmu RP, podjęłam decyzję o przyjęciu propozycji objęcia mandatu poselskiego. Złożę wniosek o dołączenie do Klubu PiS po ślubowaniu, jednocześnie pozostając aktywnym członkiem partii. Dziękuję rodzinie, przyjaciołom i przede wszystkim moim… pic.twitter.com/4dATNgCuHy

— Monika Pawłowska (@Pawlowska_pl) February 20, 2024

Based on the Polish Electoral Code, after a parliamentary mandate expires – for instance, due to the MP’s criminal conviction – “the speaker of the Sejm shall notify…the next candidate from the same list of candidates who received the highest number of votes consecutively in the election of his/her priority for a seat”.

Szymon Hołownia, the speaker of the Sejm, followed the procedure, offering Kamiński’s seat to Pawłowska, who, in the October 2023 elections, received the second-largest number of votes in Kamiński’s electoral district.

Two former PiS ministers who yesterday received prison sentences and bans from public office have lost their status as MPs

The decision was confirmed by the speaker despite an appeal by the president, who believes his 2015 pardon of the pair remains valid https://t.co/bdGYjahc0i

— Notes from Poland 🇵🇱 (@notesfrompoland) December 21, 2023

Pawłowska has refused to comment on whether Kamiński remains a rightful MP. “The courts will decide that. I am responding to the letter of the Speaker,” she told the Rzeczpospolita daily and in Sejm highlighted that she “feels like a member of PiS”. However, the party sees her move as contradictory to their official stance supporting Kamiński and Wąsik as legal MPs.

“I can feel like a three-time Nobel prize winner, for example, but unfortunately I am not,” Jarosław Kaczyński, the PiS chairman, told journalists in the Polish parliament today. “From our point of view, she sort of doesn’t exist here in parliament”.

“Monika Pawłowska accepted the 461st illegal mandate – a mandate that de facto and de jure does not exist,” Rafał Bochenek, PiS spokesperson and MP, wrote on X, referring to the number of MPs in the Sejm being set at 460 by the constitution. “We cannot accept her into our parliamentary caucus.”

“This is an illegal mandate. Shame on you, Ms. Pawłowska,” Przemysław Czarnek, a PiS MP, told news channel TVN24, announcing that he will file a motion to expel her from the PiS provincial board in the Lublin region.

Pani Monika Pawłowska przyjęła 461. nielegalny mandat – mandat, którego de facto i de iure nie ma (vide art. 96 Konstytucji). W związku z powyższym, jako @pisorgpl nie możemy jej przyjąć do naszego klubu parlamentarnego.

— Rafał Bochenek (@RafalBochenek) February 20, 2024

Pawłowska has already sparked controversy before when, in 2021, as a leading left-wing MP and deputy head of the parliamentary caucus of The Left (Lewica), she quit her party and joined one of PiS’s coalition partners in the conservative ruling camp.

She explained her move to join Agreement (Porozumienie), a centre-right group led by deputy prime minister Jarosław Gowin, by saying that it was “the only group sincerely interested in cross-party cooperation for the good of Poland”. She then later joined PiS.

News of Pawłowska’s defection was met with surprise and criticism from her former colleagues in The Left. Though defections between parties are quite common in Poland, a transfer so far across the political spectrum is rare.

A leading MP from Poland’s left-wing opposition has defected to join a party in the conservative ruling coalition.

The surprise decision was criticised by her former colleagues, who dug up examples of her criticising the government and supporting abortion https://t.co/CyjCGrtsbP

— Notes from Poland 🇵🇱 (@notesfrompoland) March 22, 2021

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Main image credit: Monika Pawłowska/X

Agata Pyka is an assistant editor at Notes from Poland. She is a journalist and a political communication student at the University of Amsterdam. She specialises in Polish and European politics as well as investigative journalism and has previously written for Euractiv and The European Correspondent.

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