Poland’s Supreme Court has upheld decisions by the electoral commission to reject two years of financial reports submitted by the party of justice minister Zbigniew Ziobro. It was found to have taken unlawful loans from private individuals.
Ziobro recently launched a new party under a different name. However, the newspaper that reported the Supreme Court’s rulings notes that the justice minister’s new party could also have its financial report for this year rejected by the National Electoral Commission (PKW).
A hardline junior party in Poland’s ruling coalition, @SolidarnaPL, has rebranded as „Sovereign Poland”.
Poland faces two threats: the war in Ukraine and „left-wing fanatics in Western Europe”, says its leader @ZiobroPL https://t.co/8icMysxDjg
— Notes from Poland 🇵🇱 (@notesfrompoland) May 4, 2023
In December last year, the PKW rejected the 2021 financial report of United Poland (Solidarna Polska), a hard-right party founded by Ziobro in 2012 and which had since 2015 been a junior partner to the ruling national-conservative Law and Justice (PiS) party.
The PKW made its decision due to United Poland having refunded three individuals who had paid certain party costs – such as postal and website fees, and the purchase of office supplies – from their own pockets, reports Rzeczpospolita, a leading daily.
Under Polish law, that counts as illegal loans from a private individual, according to the PKW. United Poland disputed that interpretation, and challenged the PKW’s decision at the Supreme Court. But its appeal has now been rejected.
“The legal basis for the PKW rejecting the report on the sources of obtaining funds cited is justified,” found the court, quoted by Rzeczpospolita.
— Rzeczpospolita (@rzeczpospolita) August 7, 2023
That decision was made on 20 June, and on the very same day the Supreme Court also rejected a complaint by United Poland against the PKW’s decision to reject its financial report for 2020, notes the newspaper.
The justification for that latter ruling has not been published but is likely to be similar, given that the 2020 report was also rejected due to unlawful borrowing from private individuals.
In May this year, United Poland relaunched itself under a new name, Sovereign Poland (Suwerenna Polska). It said that the rebranding was intended to emphasise its “defence of Polish sovereignty against German collaborators in Polish politics”.
However, Rzeczpospolita reports that the founding of the new party was intended as a way of avoiding the consequences of the PKW’s decision to reject the financial statements of the old one.
The party of rock-star-turned-politician Paweł Kukiz has been abolished by court order at the request of the electoral commission for failing to submit its financial statements on time
Kukiz is reportedly now planning to register a new party to replace it https://t.co/9iXPfv0fRY
— Notes from Poland 🇵🇱 (@notesfrompoland) February 16, 2023
But that may not go as planned, notes the newspaper, because, as news website Wirtualna Polska established in May, Sovereign Poland’s first convention and social media campaign were paid for by United Poland.
That, say both media outlets, is likely to be seen by the PKW as a violation of financing rules by Sovereign Poland because one political party is not allowed to financially support another.
Sovereign Poland’s treasurer, Michał Woś – who is also a deputy justice minister – has denied this, arguing that the convention was officially organised by United Poland and simply used to “announce an initiative related to Sovereign Poland”.
However, both the PKW and Supreme Court have rejected similar arguments by an opposition party, Poland 2050 (Polska 2050), which was found to have violated financing laws by, among other things, organising an event that was paid for by an association linked to the party’s leader, Szymon Hołownia.
The Supreme Court has upheld a decision by the electoral commission to reject a financial report of opposition party Poland 2050.
Its annual report showed no expenditure or revenue but the party argued that was because it could not yet open a bank account https://t.co/LCcFdIEwUT
— Notes from Poland 🇵🇱 (@notesfrompoland) February 23, 2023
A party having its financial report rejected by the electoral commission means that it loses the state subsidies that are given to parties that enter parliament.
In Sovereign Poland’s case, this would only be an issue if it decided to run in this year’s elections alone. However, at the last two parliamentary elections, it has stood candidates on PiS’s electoral lists instead of forming its own ones.
Should that be repeated this year – as is currently planned – the PKW’s possible rejection of Sovereign Poland’s financial report would not have any practical impact. Yet that threat further reduces the likelihood, as Ziobro has sometimes threatened, of Sovereign Poland breaking from PiS and standing alone.
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Main image credit: Ministerstwo Sprawiedliwości (under CC BY-NC-ND 3.0 PL)
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.