Monday, May 31, 2004

Poland looks set to ditch constitution

Sources: Reuters, AFP

Marek Belke's Democratic Left Alliance (SLD) party has been plunged into even deeper disarray today after the Polish parliament voted last Friday to approve a report linking it to a corruption scandal. The report blames former SLD prime minister Leszek Miller, and president Aleksander Kwasniewski for trying to cover up a multi-million-dollar corruption scandal.

According to Reuters, the vote followed the conviction last month of film producer Lew Rywin for soliciting a $17.5-million bribe from a Polish daily in return for favourable changes to media laws. In the subsequent investigations, the names of several senior SLD officials involved in the drafting of new media laws surfaced. Some were close associates of Miller and Kwasniewski, who was SLD leader before becoming president in 1995.

Yet, despite the hostile atmosphere in the parliament, Kwasniewski is still insisting on re-appointing Belka as prime minister and submitting his candidature for approval to the lower House, in defiance of the earlier vote of no confidence. Predictably, Miller is predicting that support will be "slim".

In a new twist, however, Kwasniewski is not intending to appoint Belka until 11 June, which means that the confidence vote will not take place before the IGC summit on 17/18 June. With all the opposition parties against the EU constitution, the situation is now developing where possibly Belka's only hope of gaining sufficient parliamentary support for his appointment is to ditch the constitution.

This may explain Belka's demand for an 80-20 split for the "double majority" voting system, a hardening of his earlier position when he was calling for a 60-40 split. This stance will virtually ensure that there is no agreement of the summit, allowing Belka to return home the hero, having saved the Nice deal for Poland – outflanking the opposition.

With chances of agreement thus receding, European Parliament president Pat Cox has joined Ahern in predicting that the chances for success at the IGC are only 50-50. But even that figure is looking wildly optimistic.

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