News / Europe

Polish PM Seeks Confidence Vote After Tape Scandal

Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk, left, and Deputy Prime Minister Janusz Piechocinski listen to lawmakers in the parliament in Warsaw, Poland, June 25, 2014.
Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk, left, and Deputy Prime Minister Janusz Piechocinski listen to lawmakers in the parliament in Warsaw, Poland, June 25, 2014.
VOA News

Prime Minister Donald Tusk said on Wednesday he would seek a confidence vote from parliament after secret recordings of senior officials plunged Poland into its worst political crisis for years.

The opposition immediately called on Tusk to resign, but he has refused.

“I'm ending my statement with a motion to the parliament speaker to conduct the confidence vote as soon as possible,” Tusk told parliament, over a week after Polish news magazine Wprost started publishing the tapes.

With 235 seats in the 460-member parliament, Tusk's two-party governing coalition -- the Civic Platform (PO) and junior partner Poland's Peasants Party (PSL) -- is likely to survive the vote.

The vote may take place later on Wednesday.

Options for Tusk

Earlier this week Tusk said he would not be forced by the illegal surveillance into changing his cabinet.

“There are two possibilities. One is election ... but between elections there's (the question of) a parliamentary majority,” Tusk told members of parliament on Wednesday.

Dissolving parliament, the trigger for an early election, requires two-thirds of the votes in parliament, but no bloc controls that many seats.

“Starting tomorrow in Brussels I need to be certain that I'm holding a majority,” Tusk said. “Without this mandate I will not be effective.”

The Polish premier will go to Brussels to attend the first European Council meeting after European Union elections on Thursday and Friday. Poland hopes to secure more say in the new EU structures.

Tapes, transcripts

Wprost first dropped a bomb when it released a secret recording of the central bank chief purportedly telling the interior minister he would support the government's economic policy if the then finance minister resigned.

The weekly has since released transcripts of other juicy exchanges, including one in which Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski allegedly calls Poland's U.S. ties "worthless" and blasts British Prime Minister David Cameron as "incompetent on EU affairs."

The private conversations allegedly took place at chic Warsaw restaurants over the past 18 months.

In his speech, Tusk reiterated that he believed a criminal group was behind the recordings, aiming to undermine Poland's position and influence its commodity and energy markets.

He linked the eavesdropping to Poland's role over neighboring Ukraine, where it fiercely opposes Russian intervention, and to Warsaw's growing weight inside the EU.

“The background is wide and concerns several occurrences that you could observe recently,” Tusk said. “They relate to people who acted in the sphere of gas links between Poland and Russia.”

“There's an element concerning the coal trade from the east,” he added. “The association seems obvious ... the situation in Ukraine and Europe is part of that.”

Two charged

Polish prosecutors said on Wednesday they had charged two people, a restaurant manager and a waiter, with illegally recording conversations and were questioning two more.

Analysts welcomed Tusk's comments on Wednesday.

“I think that the prime minister's decision is good, because the market was worried over the possibility of an early election,” BZ WBK's senior economist Piotr Bielski said.

“If the prime minister gets a vote of confidence, all speculation will be stopped. Our assets, zloty and debt, would positively react.”

Some information for this report provided by Reuters and AFP.

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