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The Warsaw Voice » Politics » October 24, 2002
Polish Parliment
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Things Will Never Be the Sejm
October 24, 2002 By Witold Żygulski   
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As a result of the actions of deputies from the League of Polish Families (LPR) and the Samoobrona farmers' movement, sessions of the Sejm Oct. 16-17 were completely disorganized.

After a series of blockades of the podium, speakers of both chambers of the parliament were forced to close the session. The next session will take place Oct. 28, after the first round of local elections.

The reason for the most turbulent protests in the post-1989 history of the Polish parliament was the privatization of Stoen, announced earlier by the Ministry of the Treasury. Stoen is a Warsaw power company which delivers electricity to Varsovians. Eighty-five percent of Stoen stocks will be sold to the German corporation RWE Plus, for zl.1.5 billion.

At the beginning of the Sejm session Oct. 16, the podium was occupied by Gabriel Janowski, a deputy from LPR and former minister of agriculture. He demanded that the agenda of the session be complemented by the prime minister's information on the privatization of Stoen, which Janowski described as "disgraceful treason." Sejm Speaker Marek Borowski reprimanded Janowski a number of times, but the deputy refused to leave the podium, even though his microphone had been cut. In response, Borowski excluded Janowski from the debates, which Sejm regulations allow in exceptional cases. So far, this had been used only once, against the leader of Samoobrona Andrzej Lepper.

Janowski continued to monopolize the podium, while his party colleagues brought him food and said that if the necessity arose, they would form a gauntlet so that Janowski would be able to go to the toilet and safely return to the podium.

After a series of political consultations, the Presidium of the Sejm decided to suspend the session until the morning of Oct. 17. It was expected that by that time Janowski would end his standoff. In the middle of the night Borowski decided to use force with the Speaker's Guards. A group of 30 guards entered the chamber and after a short struggle, Janowski was carried from the podium.

During the incident, several LPR and Samoobrona deputies who defended Janowski suffered superficial injuries. However, video material presented on the following day showed that the guards were not aggressive, unlike the deputies, who demolished the Speaker's desk, knocking over computer monitors.

The session was restored at the expected time, but it soon turned out that Janowski's removal had only made matters worse. Anna Sobecka, a deputy from LPR, put forward a motion to dismiss Borowski due to his decision to use force against deputies, for whom Sejm regulations guarantee personal inviolability. Borowski explained that Sejm regulations permitted the use of guards to make it possible to proceed with a session. He said that as long as he was the speaker, he would not tolerate anarchy in the parliament.

Despite his efforts, the speaker failed to initiate the debate on the sale of Stoen that deputies had demanded. The motion for Borowski's dismissal received unexpected support from the Civic Platform (PO) and Law and Justice (PiS). Moreover, several deputies of the coalition's Polish Peasants' Party (PSL) expressed sharp criticism of Borowski, a member of the Democratic Left Alliance (SLD). Finally it was decided that voting on the dismissal of Borowski would take place later in the day, during the afternoon session.

Meanwhile, several SLD politicians, including Jerzy Jaskiernia, head of the SLD caucus, publicly stated that if Borowski was forced to resign due to votes by deputies from PSL, it would mean the end of the ruling coalition and thus the possibility of premature parliamentary elections.

Borowski was also supported by President Aleksander Kwa¶niewski, who stressed in his comment on the incidents in the parliament that the speaker acted in line with the regulations in attempting to prevent constant disruption of the debates. Kwa¶niewski added that at this stage of Poland's pre-accession negotiations with the European Union, a crisis within the parliament and the government was an extremely dangerous occurrence in the process of European integration.

Voting on the dismissal of Borowski never happened. When, following a break, the debate on Stoen was supposed to begin and Minister of the Treasury Wiesław Kaczmarek walked to the podium, the session was blocked again- this time by deputies from Samoobrona. Led by Lepper, they surrounded the podium and made it impossible for Kaczmarek to go on with his speech.

Tomasz Nałęcz from the Labor Union, deputy speaker of the Sejm who conducted the session, first tried to convince the deputies to return to their seats, and then excluded over a dozen of them from the debate- to no avail. Faced with their refusal to cooperate, Nałęcz closed the session.

Polish politicians have therefore obtained 10 days to think things over. During that time- in tandem with the campaign before the local elections- Borowski's fate will be decided along with those of the ruling coalition and the present parliament. Two days after the scandal in the Sejm, deputies of PSL changed their approach slightly, announcing that "apart from few exceptions," they would vote against the motion for the dismissal of Borowski.

Prime Minister Leszek Miller, who had confirmed that Borowski's dismissal would mean the end of the coalition agreement, commented PSL's statements by saying that the party "always had a group of deputies ill-disposed to the coalition with SLD." At the same time, more and more deputies of PO and PiS are expressing their support for Borowski. However, it is doubtful that this will solve Poland's recent parliamentary crisis.
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