Polish government shaken by corruption scandal

During a meeting on the morning of Wednesday 18th July, Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk accepted the resignation of Polish Minister of Agriculture Marek Sawicki. The decision comes following a scandal over alleged corruption and fraud by government officials linked to his Polish People’s Party (PSL), the junior partner in Poland’s ruling coalition.

Marek Sawicki at March 2012 Council Meeting (Credit: European Union)

I have decided that I will submit my resignation to the prime minister,” Sawicki said in a terse statement on Tuesday following the meeting with party leaders. He added that he was innocent of abuse of office. Tusk, who is keen to maintain a reputation for clean politics, has proved quick to sack ministers tainted by scandal in the past. Sawicki’s decision comes after the Polish media published excerpts from a video recording that appear to show officals describing shady practices in the Agriculture Ministry and nepotism involving PSL officials.

The film released by Polish business daily Puls Biznesu, in which a former colleague of Sawicki’s, Wladyslaw Lukasik (the former head of Poland’s Agricultural Market Agency), clearly states that the ministry is tarnished by corruption. The Agriculture Market Agency (ARR), among other tasks, distributes state and EU funds. In the tape, Lukasik discusses the alleged malpractice in conversation with Wladyslaw Serafin, chairman of the National Union of Farmers and Farmers’ Associations (KZRKiOR). PSL leader Seputy Prime Minister Waledmar Pawlak said on Tuesday that Sawicki had taken “a manly decision” by offering his resignation.

Marek Sawicki has served as Minister of Agriculture since 2008 during both terms of the current coalition between the Civic Platform and the Polish Peasants’ Party. He is one of the most influential politicians in the Polish Peasant Party (PSL), which has strong support amid farmers and inhabitants of rural areas despite numerous accusations of widespread corruption in the party.

The anti-clerical Palikot Movement Party, which holds less than 9% of seats in the lower house of parliament, will file a motion Wednesday to hold a no-confidence vote against Mr. Tusk’s government over the issue, the party’s leader Janusz Palikot said. Mr. Sawicki’s dismissal alone “doesn’t restore hope for decency and high standards in public life,” Mr. Palikot said, adding his party would favor fresh parliamentary elections.

The ruling coalition has a narrow majority of 234 MPs in the 460-seat Sejm, the lower house.

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