The Cable

‘You’re Scumbags,’ Says Right-Wing Polish Politician

A debate in Poland’s parliament over a contentious judiciary law has shocked the country.

Jaroslaw Kaczynski, leader of Poland's opposition conservative party Law and Justice (PiS) (C), stands by to his lawmakers during a voting session at the parliamentary chamber on July 11, 2014 in Warsaw as the Prime Minister won a second confidence vote in as many weeks as the country's opposition sought to force his centre-right government to resign over a high-profile eavesdropping scandal. Interior Minister Bartlomiej Sienkiewicz, who is implicated in the scandal, also survived an opposition bid to topple him and Prime minister Donald Tusk in voting. The high-pitched controversy erupted in mid-June with the leaks of juicy exchanges between senior government officials. AFP PHOTO/JANEK SKARZYNSKI        (Photo credit should read JANEK SKARZYNSKI/AFP/Getty Images)
Jaroslaw Kaczynski, leader of Poland's opposition conservative party Law and Justice (PiS) (C), stands by to his lawmakers during a voting session at the parliamentary chamber on July 11, 2014 in Warsaw as the Prime Minister won a second confidence vote in as many weeks as the country's opposition sought to force his centre-right government to resign over a high-profile eavesdropping scandal. Interior Minister Bartlomiej Sienkiewicz, who is implicated in the scandal, also survived an opposition bid to topple him and Prime minister Donald Tusk in voting. The high-pitched controversy erupted in mid-June with the leaks of juicy exchanges between senior government officials. AFP PHOTO/JANEK SKARZYNSKI (Photo credit should read JANEK SKARZYNSKI/AFP/Getty Images)

The battle for Poland’s soul just took an ugly turn down memory lane.

Jaroslaw Kaczynski, the head of the ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party, invoked the most tragic episode in recent Polish history during a raucous parliamentary debate Wednesday over a contentious law to overhaul — and, opponents say, politicize — the country’s judiciary.

“I know you are afraid of the truth, but don’t wipe your treacherous mugs with my late brother’s name,” Jaroslaw Kaczynski fumed in the Sejm, Poland’s legislative body.  “You destroyed him, murdered him. You’re scumbags.”

The parliament erupted in a chorus of cheers and heckles. Scuffles were reported. The country’s political established was aghast. And the rant, captured on video, went viral in Poland.

The verbal attack was provoked by Borys Budka, a member of the political opposition. He quipped that Kaczynski’s twin brother, former president Lech Kaczynski, “wouldn’t allow” the proposed judiciary law, which has sparked a rash of protests in parliament and on the Polish street.

Lech Kaczynski died seven years ago in a plane crash that also claimed the lives of dozens of senior Polish government officials. He was on his way to Katyn, in Russia, the site of the World War II-era massacre of Poles by the Soviet Union, to attend a 70th anniversary commemoration. The incident, officially ruled an accident, remains an open wound in Poland, where conspiracies blaming the Kremlin for the disaster abound.

“This was a brutal, disgraceful and unfounded attack on all opposition MPs,” Budka later said of Jaroslaw Kaczynski’s remarks.

The remarks weren’t enough to derail the proposed judiciary law, though. The PiS-supported bill remains under consideration.

The judiciary law, if passed, might be the last straw for Brussels, which has repeatedly expressed alarm at the purported erosion of Polish democracy under the right-wing PiS government. On Wednesday, European Commissioner Frans Timmermans warned that the EU was “very close” to suspending Poland’s voting rights within the bloc.

This so-called “nuclear option” has never been invoked against an EU member state.

Photo Credit: JANEK SKARZYNSKI/AFP/Getty Images

Noah Buyon is a digital intern.

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