Polish probe into Russian influence may happen before vote - lawmaker

FILE PHOTO: Law and Justice (PiS) leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski and other parliamentarians attend the Polish Parliament session in Warsaw

WARSAW (Reuters) - Poland can form a commission to investigate undue Russian influence before elections on Oct. 15, a ruling party lawmaker said on Wednesday, seemingly backtracking on comments in which he had suggested there was not enough time.

The ruling nationalist Law and Justice (PiS) party says it wants the commission to examine the influence of Russian agents in Poland. The opposition say PiS wants to root out its political opponents.

In particular, critics have accused the government of planning to use the commission to eliminate the leader of the largest opposition party - former Prime Minister and former European Council President Donald Tusk - from the political scene.

PiS says that the commission is 'anti-Putin' and that the law on its creation does not mention Tusk, but that he is afraid that it will reveal that Russia influenced his government's policies.

After the law to create the commission drew criticism from lawyers, the United States and the European Commission for effectively banning individuals from holding public office without judicial review, President Andrzej Duda proposed amendments to quell those concerns.

A watered-down version of the legislation was then passed by parliament in June.

On Friday, PiS lawmaker Marek Ast said the delay this had created meant it would not be possible to form the commission before the current parliamentary term ends.

However, on Wednesday he said that there was enough time.

"I absolutely did not say that there was a decision that it won't happen or that it wouldn't happen in this parliamentary term," he told public broadcaster Polskie Radio 24. "I was talking about a certain scenario in which it wouldn't be possible to form the commission in this parliamentary term."

"However there is determination that the commission should be formed and I said there is still two months until the end of the parliamentary term... If we are talking about the time, then certainly it is enough."

Ast's apparent change of heart on the issue came after the head of Duda's office, Pawel Szrot, said on Sunday that the commission was likely to be formed before the end of the current parliamentary term.

(Reporting by Alan Charlish)