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Tuesday 20 March 2018

Crisis-hit Polish PM warns of poll

Polish prime minister Donald Tusk said he would not resign over a political crisis sparked by eavesdropping on political leaders
Polish prime minister Donald Tusk said he would not resign over a political crisis sparked by eavesdropping on political leaders

Poland's prime minister has said early elections may be necessary within weeks to calm the situation sparked by eavesdropping on political leaders.

Donald Tusk called for the popular magazine Wprost and other media to release all of the secret recordings of leaders' private conversations they may have.

He said Poland was facing a "deep crisis" and until it is all published the state will be unstable and his team vulnerable to blackmail.

The hastily arranged news conference on a national holiday sparked a whirl of speculation that one or more officials may be fired, or even that Mr Tusk could resignation.

But Mr Tusk said he saw no reason to step down. He said: "I will not resign in response to actions that, we all know, had criminal character and maybe were .... aimed at the government's resignation or fall."

He said that early elections "in a matter of a few or more weeks" may be necessary if this "crisis of confidence becomes too deep".

He is to decide next week on the fate of Interior Minister Bartlomiej Sienkiewicz, who is heard on the tape.

Supporting the idea of early elections, President Bronislaw Komorowski said a democratic decision is called for when state institutions cannot react to difficult situations.

But that is an unpalatable option for Mr Tusk, whose Civil Platform party is trailing the opposition Law and Justice party in opinion polls after seven years in power.

His news conference followed an attempt on Wednesday evening by police and state prosecutors to seize evidence from the headquarters of the magazine.

The chief editor, Sylwester Latkowski, put up strong resistance and demanded a court order. The authorities left without taking away any computers.

Wprost recently released transcripts and online audio of recordings of a restaurant conversation last July between National Bank of Poland chief Marek Belka and Mr Sienkiewicz.

They discussed how the central bank might use its power to help the government win re-election in 2015. Critics have decried the apparent collusion as a violation of the bank's independence from political interference.

Mr Tusk, Mr Sienkiewicz and Mr Belka all say the discussion was about hypothetical scenarios and had no influence on policy.

At one point in the conversation, Mr Belka is heard demanding that Jacek Rostowski be removed as Poland's finance minister. He was fired four months later.

The magazine said it is working to have more recordings published on Monday. It says it obtained the recordings from a third party, whose identity it is allowed to protect under Poland's media law.

On its pages, the magazine posed the key question: Who taped the conversations? It suggested that past or current secret agents, businessmen or Mr Tusk's political opponents were possibilities.

Prosecutors said that the manager of the restaurant, identified only as Lukasz N, was detained in the case and is formally a suspect on two counts of unauthorised access to information.

In Poland, bugging or wiretapping to get unauthorised access to information is punishable by up to two years in prison.

Press Association

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