Poland Warns of Early Election Risk Amid Vote-Buying Claims

Poland could face early elections if allegations of vote-buying at a regional convention disrupt the ruling Civic Platform party, government spokesman Pawel Gras said today.

Recordings on Newsweek Polska’s website appeared to show two Civic Platform lawmakers promising to help party officials in Lower Silesia find jobs at state-owned companies in return for backing Jacek Protasiewicz’s bid for that region’s party chairmanship. Protasiewicz unexpectedly unseated incumbent Grzegorz Schetyna by a 205-194 vote on Oct. 26.

The scandal risks eroding Civic Platform’s popularity further after the party relinquished a lead in opinion polls it’s held since 2007. The next general election is due in 2015 as the European Union’s largest eastern economy grapples with its deepest slowdown since the mid-1990s. The ruling coalition has a two-seat majority in parliament after some deputies left the party in protest at a planned pensions overhaul.

“If the situation in Civic Platform stays so unstable that the government is forced to deal with the party situation rather than focusing on Poland, then the natural outcome will be early elections,” Gras said in an interview today on TVN24.

Zloty, Bonds

The zloty, this year’s fifth-best performer against the euro among emerging-market currencies tracked by Bloomberg with a 2.2 percent decline, was 0.2 percent higher at 4.1756 versus the common currency at 2:53 p.m. in Warsaw. Yields on five-year local-currency bonds were 3 basis points higher at 3.456 percent.

Tusk, who in 2011 became the first Polish premier to win re-election since the fall of communism, has promised a “new opening” for his government in late November, including changes in his cabinet. The government has been on the defensive since proposing to cancel bonds held by private pension funds, a debt-cutting measure that’s angered urban voters who backed Tusk’s party in 2005, 2007 and 2011.

Political wrangling is also dogging the neighboring Czech Republic, which is awaiting the formation of a new government after elections last week. The Social Democrats, who won the ballot, are embroiled in a leadership battle that’s delaying talks with potential partners as the nation seeks to speed a recovery from its longest-ever recession.

‘Gigantic Scandal’

Civic Platform’s national leadership will convene in Warsaw at 5 p.m. today to discuss a motion to annul last weekend’s regional vote, pending investigation of the allegations. The jobs allegedly offered were at companies including copper miner KGHM Polska Miedz SA, according to the recording posted today.

“We’ve revealed a gigantic scandal,” parliamentary deputy Piotr Borys, who represents one of the local party officials allegedly approached with vote-buying offers, was quoted as saying by Gazeta Wyborcza today. Borys plans to file a complaint with prosecutors, the newspaper reported.

The head of Civic Platform’s parliamentary caucus, Rafal Grupinski, said he wants both deputies who made the alleged offers suspended from the caucus, although they’d still be obliged to vote with the government, TVN24 reported on its website today.

Gras and other party officials said the leaked recordings were an effort by Schetyna to reverse his defeat by undermining the government.

“In Lower Silesia we had a David-Goliath fight; Goliath hasn’t accepted losing and we see the consequences,” Gras said today on TVN24. “We’re going to have to respond. This doesn’t serve the party and it’s infuriating.”

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