Polish cabinet survives confidence vote

Donald Tusk. Warsaw, 14 May. [Kancelaria Premiera/Flickr]

Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk yesterday (25 June) survived a vote of confidence in his coalition amid a high-profile bugging scandal that has prompted calls for his centre-right government to resign.

Tusk’s two-party governing coalition received backing from 237 MPs, with 203 against, and no abstentions in the 460-member parliament, in a vote he called earlier on Wednesday, after leaked exchanges between top officials whipped up a political storm in this eastern European heavyweight.

“Without this mandate, I will not be effective. The government will not be able to clarify the bugging affair in a satisfactory manner and keep a handle on state interests,” he told parliament after requesting the vote.

The Polish news magazine Wprost first dropped a bomb when it released a secret recording of the central bank chief purportedly telling the interior minister he would support the government’s economic policy if the then-finance minister resigned. 

>> Read: Eavesdropping scandal rocks Poland

The weekly has since released transcripts of other juicy exchanges, including one in which Foreign Minister Rados?aw Sikorski allegedly calls Poland’s US ties “worthless” and blasts British Prime Minister David Cameron as “incompetent on EU affairs”. 

>> Read: Leaks reveal Polish doubts about US relationship

The private conversations allegedly took place at chic Warsaw restaurants over the last 18 months. 

The opposition immediately called on Tusk to resign, but he has refused, calling the leaks an attempted “coup d’etat” aimed at “destabilising” Poland at a time of crisis in neighbouring Ukraine.

Tusk heads to Brussels on Thursday for a summit of EU leaders focused on European energy security. 

The premier, who is a leading proponent of creating an EU-wide energy union to reduce the bloc’s dependence on Russian gas, said he called the confidence vote to be sure of his majority while attending the talks.

The bugging scandal has already resulted in charges against a restaurant manager and waiter — prompting some to label the affair “Waitergate” on social media. 

A millionaire Polish businessman who deals in the coal sector with Russia has also been detained, prompting speculation that Moscow is behind the leaks.

Tusk himself hinted at the possibility Wednesday.

“I don’t know which alphabet was used to write this scenario, but I have no doubt as to who could benefit from it,” he told parliament in a possible reference to the Cyrillic alphabet used in Russia.

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