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WARSAW, Poland (AP) — Poland’s president vetoed a bill Friday that would have made it possible for authorities to strip communist-era officers of their ranks.

Andrzej Duda argued that bill was not fair because it would not have allowed those deprived of their ranks, some now dead, to defend themselves.

“It was certainly a violation of democratic standards of the state,” Duda said.

He also noted that the people are closely watching whether the rule of law is being observed in Poland, a reference to European Union concerns about changes to Poland’s judicial system.

The ruling party, Law and Justice, which has made punishing former communists a keystone of its program, was “surprised and disappointed,” the party spokeswoman Beata Mazurek said.

Supporters viewed the legislation as an act of justice, but opponents described it as vengeful. A recent poll showed that it was not popular.

The bill had allowed for communist-era generals and other high-ranking officers to be demoted to the rank of privates for their roles in the Moscow-imposed regime that lasted from 1944-1990 and in a repressive crackdown imposed by communist leader Gen. Wojciech Jaruzelski in 1981 that killed around 100 dissidents.

It would also have affected Poland’s only cosmonaut, Gen. Miroslaw Hermaszewski, 76 — something many people found objectionable.