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Polish Self-Defense Party Withdraws From Ruling Coalition

A junior party in Poland's governing coalition said Sunday it is pulling out from the partnership and withdrawing its ministers from the country's cabinet.

The move throws the government's future into question and raises the possibility of early elections.

Self-Defense Party leader Andrezj Lepper told reporters that his party is no longer obligated to vote in line with the ruling coalition. He said that the party's two ministers are now, in his words, at the disposal of Prime Minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski.

Last week, the prime minister said he believes snap elections are the only way to end Poland's ongoing political crisis.

Mr. Kaczynski removed Lepper from his posts as deputy premier and agriculture minister last month, after Lepper was tied to a corruption investigation. Lepper has repeatedly denied the allegations.

Last week, Prime Minister Kaczynski appointed a member of his Law and Justice party to replace Lepper as agriculture minister, drawing criticism from junior coalition party leaders. They said the move violates a deal under which they said the prime minister had agreed to pick someone from the fired minister's Self-Defense Party.

Leaders of the Self-Defense party voted overwhelmingly (61 - 8) Sunday to withdraw the labor and construction ministers from the cabinet.

Elections in Poland are not due until 2009.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.