Polish Premier Wins Vote of Confidence After Tapes RowDavid McQuaid and Piotr Skolimowski
Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk, seeking to steady his government shaken by a scandal over leaked recordings, won a vote of confidence on the eve of a European Union summit on energy security in Brussels.
The motion passed by 237 votes to 203 late yesterday after Janusz Piechocinski, the leader of the Polish Peasants Party, said lawmakers in the junior partner in Tusk’s ruling coalition will “stand firm” behind the government in the face of opposition calls for an early election.
“Winning the vote of confidence will help the prime minister to restore a greater sense of political stability,” Michal Dybula, an economist at BNP Paribas SA, said by e-mail. “While we don’t think electionss so soon after the scandal should be viewed as a base-case scenario, they shouldn’t be dismissed out of hand either.”
Poland’s longest-serving prime minister since the fall of communism 25 years ago has sought to rally support for the government by saying the recordings were carried out by a “criminal group” intent on destabilizing the country. The rift over the taping scandal is jeopardizing the political stability brought by Tusk, who in 2011 became the first Polish premier to win a second term since 1989.
“I need to be certain that I have a majority, because without this mandate I won’t be effective in talks” that start in Brussels today, Tusk told lawmakers in the Polish capital before the vote.
The zloty pared gains after Tusk’s announcement before recovering to trade 0.4 percent stronger at 4.1375 per euro at 10:10 p.m. in Warsaw. It has recouped losses from last week when Tusk and President Bronislaw Komorowski raised the possibility of early elections in response to the eavesdropping crisis.
The crisis erupted on June 14 after Wprost magazine published secretly recorded and expletive-laced conversations of central bank Governor Marek Belka discussing with Interior Minister Bartlomiej Sienkiewicz steps to boost the economy and help the government win elections.
Prosecutors in Warsaw detained two people and charged two others in relation to the scandal, according to Renata Mazur, a spokeswoman for the law-enforcement office.
The suspects detained are linked to coal distributors and importers, Tusk said yesterday. The scandal must be viewed in the “context” of the unrest in neighboring Ukraine and the trading of Russian gas, he said.
In the wake of the standoff over Ukraine, Tusk has championed the need to reduce Europe’s dependence on Russian energy. In April, he proposed a single body charged with purchasing gas as a means of breaking Russia’s “stranglehold” over the region’s energy market.
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. Tusk’s coalition controls 235 votes in the 460-seat lower house of parliament, 32 of which belong to the Peasants Party.
Since the motion’s defeat would have triggered the fall of the government and early elections, the move amounted to “a shock tactic to instill fear and discipline” among coalition lawmakers, Olgierd Annusewicz, a political scientist at Warsaw University, said by phone.
The opposition Law and Justic party will file a motion for what’s known as a constructive vote of no-confidence in the government today, Mariusz Blaszczak, a lawmaker, told reporters in Warsaw.
“We’ll take all the necessary steps to make sure this government’s days are numbered,” Jaroslaw Kaczynski, the head of Law & Justice, told reporters in parliament yesterday.
The vote, which also requires an alternative candidate for prime minister, is unlikely to pass. Law and Justice doesn’t have the required 231 votes and the Democratic Left Alliance, another opposition party, has said it won’t support the motion.
More tapes emerged during the weekend, including one that purportedly features Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski and Jacek Krawiec, chief executive officer of oil refiner PKN Orlen.
The prime minister apologized for the coarse language used by public officials during the secretly recorded conversations and said his ministers must explain themselves to the public.
The situation needs to be clarified in the next month and a half, Piechocinski said June 24, adding that a resolution may require “painful personnel steps.” Last week, prosecutors also charged a manager at one of the restaurants where the illegal taping allegedly took place.
“How is it possible for the government to be under surveillance by a coal trader and a bunch of waiters,” Krzysztof Szczerski, a deputy representing Law and Justice, said after Tusk’s speech. “What kind of state is that?”
The first opinion poll published after the scandal broke showed the Civic Platform trailing the biggest opposition party, Law and Justice. The party of Jaroslaw Kaczynski was in the lead among potential voters in the June 23 poll of 1,000 adults by Warsaw-based TNS Polska. The margin of error was 3.1 percentage points.
Belka said in an interview published yesterday that he wasn’t planning to step down as central bank governor and vowed to keep the scandal from knocking monetary policy off track.