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Political manoeuvring continues as key vote postponed in Poland

dpa German Press Agency
Published: Thursday October 12, 2006

Warsaw- Manoeuvring on Poland's chaotic political scene continued Thursday as a parliament voted to postpone a crucial vote determining the future of the beleaguered right-wing Law and Justice (PiS) government of Prime Minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski. It also became apparent Thursday the Kaczynski government was prepared to kiss and make with the populist Samoobrona farmers' party in order to secure a parliamentary majority. The PiS had abruptly ousted Samoobrona from a three-way majority coalition three weeks ago.

"Today we'll begin taking about the creation of a coalition and on Monday a coalition agreement should be finalised," Samoobrona leader and ex-Agriculture and Deputy Prime Minister Andrzej Lepper told reporters in parliament Thursday.

The PiS dumped Lepper and his Samoobrona party on September 22 after just four months of a rocky three-way marriage with junior partner the Catholic-nationalist League of Polish Families (LPR). The surprise move raised had the spectre of snap general elections just a year after the vote which brought the PiS victory.

However, with the PiS's apparent reconciliation with Samobroona and the likely majority coalition, snap elections in late November are now highly unlikely.

Kaczynski and his PiS-LPR administration are also likely to survive a motion launched by the opposition liberal Civic Platform (PO, 132 seats) and a left-wing party (SLD, 55 seats) to dissolve parliament.

Scheduled for Thursday, the vote has now been postponed until October 17. It is aimed at forcing a snap general election, but requires a two-thirds majority and cannot pass without the support of PiS legislators.

Opposition left-wing and liberal leaders on Thursday termed the PiS's chaotic political manoeuvring "shocking" and accused the PiS of neglecting crucial policy and development issues in Poland.

Allied with junior coalition partner, the Catholic-nationalist League of Polish Families (LPR), Kaczynski's PiS administration currently commands 183 seats in the 460-seat parliament and is scrambling to assemble a 231-seat majority.

Last month the PiS premier had vowed to submit to a snap general election should he fail to muster a majority.

Kaczynski, however, appears to have made a huge political U-turn on this oft-repeated promise after the PiS's popularity plunged on the heels of the recent TV broadcast of a compromising secret video.

Poland's commercial TVN showed a clandestine tape of a senior PiS politician offering a top government post to an opposition MP in exchange for her crossing over to the PiS. The candid footage drastically undermined the PiS's anti-corruption image.

Independent opinion polls suggest the party's popularity has since plummeted to a weak second-spot some 10 per cent behind the opposition liberal Civic Platform (PO).

© 2006 dpa German Press Agency