Polish Ruling Party Loses Another Lawmaker as Protests Swell

Poland’s ruling Civic Platform lost its third parliamentarian in less than three weeks as the government faces labor union demonstrations and ebbing support.

Jacek Zalek today joined Jaroslaw Gowin, who left the party this week in protest at a planned pension revamp, and John Godson, who quit on Aug. 27. That leaves the ruling coalition, which includes the Polish Peasants’ Party, with 232 votes in the 460-seat lower house, according to parliament’s website.

The government is battling growing discontent as the European Union’s largest eastern economy is forecast to grow this year at the weakest pace since at least 1997. Labor unions began four-day protests in Warsaw yesterday and opinion polls released today showed Civic Platform falling further behind the opposition Law and Justice.

“Those protests are a sign that we were unable to rise to the challenges that were put before us by Poles,” Zalek, who was suspended as party member for breaking voting discipline last month, told a news conference in Warsaw. “I don’t want to be in a situation where I have to fight with my party and not for the promises I made to voters.”

Pensions, Cabinet

Prime Minister Donald Tusk said last week that the state will take over more than half of the assets of privately managed pension funds as the government seeks more leeway to boost public spending. Tusk, who became the first Polish premier to win re-election after the fall of communism, may shuffle his cabinet in November, Pawel Gras, the government spokesman, said today on the TVN 24 news channel.

Support for Civic Platform dropped to 20 percent in a Sept. 10 poll by Homo Homini from 24 percent in a Sept. 6-7 survey, the Rzeczpospolita newspaper reported today. Backing for Law and Justice was 31 percent in the latest poll of 1,100 people, which didn’t give a margin of error, according to the newspaper.

Tusk said Aug. 28 that if he loses his majority he’ll consider early elections rather than wait until his term ends in the fourth quarter of 2015. The alliance relies on some independent deputies and members of the opposition Palikot Movement to push through legislation.

Tusk remarks “may just be a bluff, and not an option he is seriously considering,” Michal Dybula, an economist at BNP Paribas SA in Warsaw, said yesterday in an e-mailed report. “The ruling party may well hope that as result of economic recovery and helped by a fresh round of fiscal stimulus in 2014-15 it can regain popular support. Therefore muddling through seems the most likely.”

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