An MP from Poland’s former ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party has been hit with a 78,500 zloty (€18,000) fine for illegally putting up over 1,000 campaign posters in a city where he was standing in October’s parliamentary elections.
The punishment was announced yesterday by Janusz Kubicki, the mayor of Zielona Góra, the city where Łukasz Mejza was elected as a candidate for the national-conservative PiS party.
Mejza i plakaty, jest kara ponad 78 500 zł. Pamiętacie w nocy z 11 na 12 października kiedy plakaty wyborcze zaśmieciły dużą cześć miasta. Mówiłem, że nie ma na to zgody i nie będzie zero tolerancji. Wszystko zostało zdjęte i policzone.
— Janusz Kubicki (@KubickiJanusz) January 4, 2024
Days before the vote, on the night of 11-12 October, hundreds of Mejza’s election posters appeared around the city, placed on lamp posts and traffic barriers. As well as being put up without permission, some of the adverts also blocked street signs, such as warnings to drivers about pedestrian crossings.
The posters featured not only Mejza’s name, image and the PiS logo but also the slogan “We’ll drive out Tusk”, a reference to Donald Tusk, then leader of the opposition but who after the elections became prime minister.
At the time, the deputy commander of the municipal police told local broadcaster Index Radio that attempts to contact Mejza’s offices and PiS’s election headquarters had been unsuccessful. She added that the advertising would be removed at the candidate’s expense.
Kubicki – who had once employed Mejza as a consultant – also condemned his former associate’s actions on social media and instructed officials to remove the illegally placed adverts. They eventually gathered 1,187 small posters and 13 larger banners. On that basis, the city issued Mejza with a fine of 78,500 zloty.
However, Kubicki notes that he was only able to announce the decision now because for a long time notifications of the fine sent to Mejza’s office and home address were returned to city hall marked as undelivered. Efforts to deliver them in person were also unsuccessful.
When contacted by the authorities, the local PiS electoral committee also said that it was not responsible for the issue, and directed all matters to Mejza himself.
The mayor says that the decision to issue the fine will now go into force within 35 days, after which efforts to enforce payment can begin. Kubicka told broadcaster TVN that, when the money is recovered, it will be donated to an animal shelter.
Candidates from Poland’s recent elections have been donating their campaign banners to animal shelters, where they can be used as insulation.
Some are also being turned into bags while one group wants to send them to Ukraine to help seal soldiers’ dugouts https://t.co/sDPYscEEha
— Notes from Poland 🇵🇱 (@notesfrompoland) October 26, 2023
In July, Mejza was also accused by the mayor of Krosno Odrzańskie, a town near Zielona Góra, of hanging posters illegally. After the elections, Wirtualna Polska, a leading news website, published an investigation indicating that Mejza had used at least 100 fake Facebook accounts to promote his campaign.
In 2021, another Wirtualna Polska investigation found that a company run by Mejza – who was then serving as a deputy minister in the PiS government – marketed unproven medical treatments to the families of seriously ill children.
The politician has consistently denied any wrongdoing in the latter case, saying he is the victim of “the biggest political attack since 1989”. Prosecutors are continuing to investigate and no charges have been brought.
Ta dziewczyna z Ukrainy w 2020 r. zachorowała na ostrą białaczkę. Zaczęła zbierać na leczenie. Ludzie odpowiedzialni za przygotowanie fabryki trolli wspierającej Mejzę ukradli jej zdjęcie i zrobili z niej Dorotę Wilk z Drezdenka, popierającą posła PiS.https://t.co/tfAMAiFjPA pic.twitter.com/Tr3g6dheAU
— Szymon Jadczak (@SzJadczak) November 8, 2023
Separately, another business founded by Mejza was accused of earning almost 1 million zloty – most of it from EU funds – for providing vouchers for training that there is no evidence actually took place. Prosecutors are also investigating that case.
Despite those controversies, Mejza was on 15 October successfully elected for another term in parliament. Though he stood on the PiS electoral list, he was then part of a smaller allied party called the Republicans. That group has, however, merged with PiS since the elections.
Last month, Mejza was again reported to prosecutors for a further alleged crime after Wirtulna Polska reported that the MP appeared to have failed to include a property worth half a million zloty in his declaration of assets as required.
Pressure is growing on the government over a deputy minister accused of running a company that marketed unproven medical treatments to the families of seriously ill children
The case is seen as threatening the ruling party’s fragile parliamentary majority https://t.co/sbmujPACRI
— Notes from Poland 🇵🇱 (@notesfrompoland) December 1, 2021
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Main image credit: Wadim Tyszkewicz/Facebook
Daniel Tilles is editor-in-chief of Notes from Poland. He has written on Polish affairs for a wide range of publications, including Foreign Policy, POLITICO Europe, EUobserver and Dziennik Gazeta Prawna.