Polish coalition in crisis again
Early elections appear increasingly likely in
Andrzej Lepper, the leader of the junior coalition party Self Defence, said on 5 August that his party’s two government ministers would quit when Parliament reconvenes after its summer recess on 22 August.
He also said that the party’s MPs would no longer support the government in Parliament.
A corruption case allegedly implicating Lepper has undermined the coalition. Lepper was sacked from his posts of Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Agriculture last month after allegations that large sums of money had changed hands to have agricultural land rezoned as commercial land. Lepper denies any involvement in the alleged corruption.
Prime Minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski sacked the Interior Minister Janusz Kaczmarek last Wednesday for reportedly leaking classified information in an attempt to undermine an investigation into Lepper’s allegedly corrupt activities in the Ministry of Agriculture.
“I am not the source of the leak,” Kaczmarek said, according to local news agency PAP.
“I was misled by Minister Kaczmarek. He abused my trust in him. This is why I couldn’t wait any longer [with the sacking],” Prime Minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski said.
Short of majority
The departure of the Self Defence Party leaves the coalition well short of a majority in the Sejm, the lower house of the Polish Parliament. The main coalition party Law and Justice can currently muster 155 votes and the remaining coalition party the League of Polish Families has just 34 MPs, leaving the remnants of the coalition well short of the 231 mandates needed for an overall majority.
Early elections eyed
In theory, the next elections are due to take place in 2009, but the government looks increasingly unlikely to last that long. The Prime Minister said last week that he favours holding early elections. That decision would have to be made by his twin brother, President Lech Kaczynski. The President said last week that early elections are “unavoidable”.
The coalition headed by Prime Minister Kaczynski has teetered on the verge of collapse on several occasions since he became Prime Minister last year. Last autumn the Self Defence Party left the government over a budget dispute but rejoined three weeks later.
Opinion polls suggest that if early elections were held this autumn, the government would lose support to the liberal and left-wing opposition. A recent poll by the daily Dziennik said the pro-market opposition party Civic Platform would emerge from the elections as the biggest party in the Sejm with 226 seats, just short of an overall majority.