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Poland's opposition liberals launch drive for snap elections

Deutsche Presse-Agentur dpa
Published: Tuesday September 26, 2006

Warsaw- Poland's opposition liberal Civic Platform (PO) on Tuesday announced a motion to dissolve parliament as the governing Law and Justice (PiS) party was scrambling to assemble a majority coalition to forestall early elections. "After 12 months in power the PiS has failed to construct a good government and we believe it will not be able to construct a stable government," PO leader Donald Tusk told reporters in Warsaw, explaining PO's drive for a snap general election.

According to article 98.3 of the Polish Constitution, the Sejm, or Polish parliament, may shorten its term of office by a resolution passed by a majority of at least two-thirds of the votes of the statutory number of deputies.

The PO would have to gather at least 306 votes in the 460-seat parliament to carry the self-dissolution motion, making it impossible to pass without the support of the governing PiS.

After ousting its populist Samoobrona (Self Defence) junior coalition partner last week and so losing it's parliamentary majority, the PiS under the leadership of Prime Minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski was scrambling this week to gather a majority in talks with several smaller parties.

It was in stuttering talks with the rural Polish Peasants Party (PSL - 25 seats) and could gain the support of a new 15-member parliamentary caucus mostly composed of MPs who have defected from Samoobrona.

The PiS has set October 10 as a deadline to secure a majority coalition. It currently commands 183 seats in parliament and needs at least 231 for a working majority.

Should he fail to secure a stable majority, Prime Minister Kaczynski has vowed he will opt for early elections. The PiS is also keen to introduce a new electoral law which would award an automatic majority to the party which wins the most seats.

PiS maintains the move is designed to promote a bi-party system counteracting the tendency towards unstable coalition governments created by Poland's multi-party system.

Polish voters could face a snap election by November 26. Poles last went to the polls in a September 2005 general election.

The right-wing PiS emerged the surprise victor over the favoured PO liberals. The two parties failed to forge a long promised coalition.

The PiS opted for a highly controversial and unstable coalition with populists and Catholic-nationalists which fell apart last week when the populist Samoobrona refused to support a PiS-proposed 30 billion zloty (9.6 billion dollar) cap on the 2007 public deficit.

© 2006 DPA - Deutsche Presse-Agentur dpa