A Short History of the ‘Komisja Śledcza’ (Part 1)

Ready to Grill Anyone
Ready to Grill Anyone

How on earth do you explain to anyone not living in Poland the complexities of the komisja śledcza? In all honesty, I have no idea where to begin. Perhaps, however, a few explanatory remarks to get the ball rolling. The institution of komisja śledcza (roughly translated as ‘parliamentary investigative commission’) burst onto the Polish scene in a flash of media hype and buzz with Rywingate in January 2003.

Lew in the Slammer
Lew in the Slammer

Its remit was to investigate the alleged attempt by film producer Lew Rywin to obtain a $17.4m bribe from Gazeta Wyborcza for changing legislation which would re-open up the media market and be of great help to Gazeta Wyborcza‘s publishers Agora. Rywin approached Gazeta Wyborcza‘s editor-in-chief Adam Michnik who recorded the entire event thus sparking the first komisja śledcza. The investigative commission went down as one of the most important political events in modern Polish history bringing down the SLD government (and effectively wiping out the political left), pushing to the fore Civic Platform (PO) and Law and Justice (PiS) which in turn allowed Lech Kaczyński to win the presidency and Jarosław Kaczyński the parliamentary elections with their mission to instigate a moral revolution and the ‘Fourth Republic’. Lew Rywin went to prison.

Culture of Commissions
Culture of Commissions

If Rywingate got the ball rolling, the next commission, known as Orlengate, finally put the nail in the coffin for Poland’s left wing and saw the rise of right-wingers Roman Giertych, Zbigniew Wassermann (later to appear in the Gamblegate commission) and the political re-birth of Antoni Macierewicz. The 2004 commission focused on the dealings of oil giant PKN Orlen. The company’s CEO Andrzej Modrzejewski was arrested in dubious circumstances by the Office of State Protection (UOP) and then suddenly released prior to an important board meeting. This controversy led to his removal from the post of CEO which put the spanner in the works for an oil supply contract worth nigh on $15bn. Allegedly, the then President Aleksander Kwaśniewski, business mogul Jan Kulczyk, businessman Marek Dochnal as well as the Russian secret services were embroiled in the scandal. Also, the reputation of Włodzimierz Cimosiewicz was tarnished by the whole affair and ruined his chances of winning the presidency.

to be continued in part 2


4 thoughts on “A Short History of the ‘Komisja Śledcza’ (Part 1)

  1. Thanks for this, it’s an easy to understand summary of some complicated stuff. I’ve heard of all the scandals and the personalities but when trying to find out more my brain has tended to shut down.

    The non-stop Komisja Śledcza is the main reason why I only make a token effort to follow Polish politics. No policies or ideas, just personalities and accusations.

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