Gov’t Shaken by Bugging Scandal
July 4, 2014
Prime Minister Donald Tusk’s government is facing the biggest political crisis of its seven years in power after a news magazine published transcripts of bugged private conversations between top officials packed with controversial, offensive remarks.
Tusk June 25 won a vote of confidence from parliament, with 237 deputies in support and 203 opposing. He had requested the vote saying he needed a mandate to continue in power amid a barrage of criticism and calls from the opposition for his government to resign.
Tusk called the leaked tapes, transcripts of which were published by Wprost magazine, “an attempted coup d’etat” adding that “the Polish state is being destabilized” by illegal wiretapping.
Critics said that Foreign Minister Rados³aw Sikorski had damaged Poland’s relations with the United States and dented his own chances of a senior EU post after Wprost released a transcript in which he said the country’s alliance with America is worthless.
“The Polish-American alliance isn’t worth anything. It is even harmful because it gives Poland a false sense of security,” Wprost quoted Sikorski as saying.
Sikorski’s aides said his words were taken out of context, while Sikorski himself said the bugged conversations indicated that the government had been “attacked by an organized crime group.”
Sikorski has been touted as a strong candidate for the post of the EU’s top diplomat after Catherine Ashton vacates the job.
Poland’s central bank chief Marek Belka and Interior Minister Bart³omiej Sienkiewicz have also come under fire after Wprost published recordings of a private conversation between them in a restaurant.
According to a transcript, the pair discussed the central bank helping the government with the economy to advance the election prospects of Tusk’s ruling, center-right Civic Platform (PO) party. In the recording, Belka appeared to offer help on condition that then-Finance Minister Jacek Rostowski was fired. Rostowski lost his job in a November Cabinet reshuffle.
Defying his critics, Belka said he would not tender his resignation, denying allegations that he had compromised the independence of the central bank.
Investigators probing who planted the bugs have detained one of Poland’s richest businessmen along with two men who worked in Warsaw restaurants.
In the wake of the scandal, Tusk’s PO has fallen way behind the conservative opposition Law and Justice (PiS) in the opinion polls. The PO is backed by 24 percent of voters, while PiS is backed by 31 percent, a poll for public broadcaster Polish Television showed.