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Belka Must Consider Resigning, Polish Central Banker Says

Polish central bank Governor Marek Belka must consider resigning in a scandal over leaked recordings of his comments, a fellow policy maker said as tensions mounted within the country’s ruling coalition.

The fallout from the release of a secretly taped conversation, in which Belka and a government minister discuss ways to boost the ruling party’s popularity, is “a very serious problem” and he needs to “consider if staying on won’t hurt the central bank’s credibility, despite his assurances to the contrary,” Andrzej Rzonca, a member of the Monetary Policy Council, told the Gazeta Wyborcza newspaper in an interview.

The June 14 release of the recordings threw Poland’s politics into turmoil, raising the possibility of a snap election and undermining the central bank’s leadership. The junior party in the ruling two-way coalition piled pressure on Prime Minister Donald Tusk, who yesterday said the country may be forced to hold early elections.

A snap vote will be needed if more recordings emerge and other government members “are discredited,” Janusz Piechocinski, head of the Polish Peasants Party, which governs with Tusk’s Civic Platform, said in a separate Gazeta interview.

The scandal sent the zloty to its weakest level in more than three weeks. It declined 0.2 percent to 4.1577 per euro at 1:42 p.m. in Warsaw, extending this week’s depreciation to 0.9 percent, the fourth steepest among 24 emerging-market currencies tracked by Bloomberg.

Political Involvement?

On the leaked tape, Belka is heard discussing with Interior Minister Bartlomiej Sienkiewicz steps to boost the economy and help the ruling party win an election next year. The central bank is by law required to stay out of politics. The crisis deepened after the authorities searched the magazine’s offices for the recordings on June 18.

Rzonca also distanced himself from a June 17 statement by policy makers, saying it “didn’t constitute support” for the governor. The council had praised working with Belka while expressing regret about his comments that “may create the impression” he became involved in “the political cycle.”

Belka “didn’t overstep” his mandate and continued discussions about his future aren’t “beneficial for the central bank and the conduct of monetary policy,” Jan Winiecki, another rate-setter, said today on TVN24 BiS.

‘Scandal Continues’

“The tape scandal continues, just when it had appeared that Belka had ridden through this,” Tim Ash, chief emerging-market economist at Standard Bank Group Ltd. in London, said by e-mail. “In Belka’s defense, the MPC in Poland has always been very political.”

If Poland needs to hold a snap ballot, it may take place in a “few” weeks or months, Tusk said yesterday. His coalition controls 234 votes in the 460-seat lower house of parliament, 32 of which belong to Piechocinski’s party. A two-thirds majority, or 307 votes, is required for lawmakers to dissolve the legislature, making Civic Platform’s support necessary to pass any such measure.

The opposition Law and Justice party wants to take a different route, Mariusz Blaszczak, head of its parliamentary caucus, said today. The party will consult with other lawmakers about putting forward a joint candidate to replace Tusk, a measure that would require 231 votes. Law and Justice has 136.

“Tusk is using early elections as a bogeyman to discipline his coalition partner and own backbenchers,” Blaszczak told reporters in parliament in Warsaw. “Our offer is on the table and let’s see who really is in the opposition.”

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