Polish coalition crisis defused


A junior coalition partner has said it will remain in Poland's conservative government, defusing what had appeared to be an escalating crisis.

The pledge by the Self-Defence Party came despite the dismissal of its leader, Deputy Prime Minister Andrzej Lepper, from the cabinet on Monday. He said Self-Defence was “staying in the coalition, conditionally”. He demanded proof, by Friday, for claims that he was linked to a huge agricultural corruption scandal. His dismissal by Prime Minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski - prompted by the scandal claims - had raised the possibility of an early election. It is alleged that millions of dollars was paid in bribes to redesignate agricultural land for commercial use. Lepper - who was also agriculture minister - denies any involvement. He has ruled out returning to the government. “We want evidence against me presented by Friday - recordings, allegedly tapes, conversations - please present them to public opinion,” Lepper said.

Earlier, the main opposition parties Civic Platform and Democratic Left Alliance (SLD) submitted motions to dissolve parliament. But correspondents say the motions are unlikely to be put to a vote before September, as deputies will shortly go on their summer break. Prime Minister Kaczynski's Law and Justice Party narrowly won parliamentary elections in 2005, but has faced difficulties in implementing its right-wing economic reform program. Self Defence has 46 deputies in the 460-seat Sejm, the lower house of the parliament. Without them, the government can count on the support of only 203 deputies - far short of the 231 needed for a majority. Sejm Speaker Ludwik Dorn told reporters that “if the government has no majority in the Sejm, motions for the chamber dissolution submitted by the opposition will be examined in the second half of September.”

Lepper was also sacked from the government last year in a dispute over the budget - but his party was welcomed back later to shore up the coalition. His latest dismissal came after the Anti-Corruption Office, a government body, arrested two men in connection with the agricultural corruption scandal. (news.bbc.co.uk, people.com.cn)



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