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The Warsaw Voice » Politics » September 2, 2011
Politics & Society
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In brief
September 2, 2011   
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Prosecutors Fired
Two Polish prosecutors have been fired for helping hand over the bank account details of a rights activist to Belarus, in a scandal that dented Poland’s credentials as an advocate of the Belarusian pro-democracy movement.

Ales Byalyatsky, head of the Vyasna Human Rights Center in Belarus, was charged with tax evasion in that country after Polish prosecutors disclosed details of his Polish bank accounts. Byalyatsky said the accounts contained funds used to finance the pro-democracy movement in Belarus.

The prosecutors’ decision was condemned by Polish political leaders.

Foreign Minister Radosław Sikorski issued an apology on behalf of Poland, vowing to “improve efforts to support democracy in Belarus.”

“This is a scandalous mistake, despite the Foreign Ministry’s warnings” to prosecutors, Sikorski wrote on his Twitter account.

Prime Minister Donald Tusk called the prosecutors’ decision “beyond incompetent,” saying it might have “grave consequences” for Polish foreign policy.

Other Polish politicians also condemned the incident.

The prosecutors’ decision “has ruined Poland’s reputation as a supporter of democracy,” said Robert Tyszkiewicz, a deputy from the ruling Civic Platform (PO) and head of a parliamentary committee dealing with Belarusian matters. “It undermines the trust in Poland—built up over years—as a safe haven for all those fighting for human rights and civil liberties,” he added.

Andrzej Halicki, a Civic Platform deputy and head of the parliamentary foreign affairs committee, called the incident “an unbelievable scandal.”

Politicians from Law and Justice (PiS), the main opposition party, also voiced indignation. “Polish prosecutors cannot act as [Belarusian President Alexander] Lukashenko’s investigative services,” helping him track down his opponents, said Ryszard Czarnecki, a Law and Justice MEP.

Polish prosecutors said they had only agreed to Minsk’s request for legal help.

Election Campaign Under Way
Polish political parties have started campaigning in earnest for the country’s parliamentary elections after President Bronisław Komorowski officially announced the ballot will take place Oct. 9.

Newly formed electoral commissions have registered candidate lists to both houses of parliament.

A new law that came into force Aug. 1 introduces several changes to the Polish electoral system. Candidates to the Senate, the upper house of parliament, will now be chosen from 100 single-member constituencies. Women must make up at least 35 percent of each list to the lower house.

The new law also triples the maximum sum which candidates may offer their electoral committee to over zl.60,000—45 times the current minimum wage.

Electors over the age of 75 and those with disabilities will now be able to vote by proxy.

Under the new law, Poles staying abroad will be able to vote by post, by e-mail, by fax or in person. They will have to notify their consulate by Sept. 24.

According to the National Electoral Commission, the cost of this year’s ballot may exceed zl.138 million—nearly double the cost of the elections in 2007.
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