Friday, June 25, 2004

Belka confirmed as Polish prime minister

Contrary to predictions in May click here, when Poland looked set to ditch the constitution on the back of mounting political instability, prime minister designate Marek Belka has won his vote of confidence in the lower House to gain confirmation as Poland's premier.

His victory avoids the political trauma of an early general election Belka's victory averts snap elections in August and gives the deeply unpopular ex-communist Democratic Left Alliance (SLD) a chance to regroup and gain supporters before election, which some pundits are forecasting for early 2005.

How much, if at all, yesterday’s announcement of an EU award of 8.2 billion euros click here to Poland’s ailing economy featured in Belka's victory is not stated but, for a politician standing on a platform of economic reform and regeneration, it cannot have harmed his case.

Nevertheless, the vote was close, with 236 for to 215 against, engineered after side deals with support from the minority SDPL, which is calling for elections by the end of the year – a call which may be resisted, giving rise to further instability.

For the moment though, Belka’s SLD has seen off the challenge from the anti-EU constitution Civic Platform party, which emerged a clear victor from the European elections, with 23 percent of the vote, and Andrzej Lepper's Self-Defence party, which emerged fourth.

It will suit the EU cause to have Belka at the helm as the constitution ratification moves up the political agenda – not least because there will probably be a knife-edge vote in the expected referendum. But Polish politics are nothing if not unpredictable so the "Europeans", like Belka, have a long way to go before they are out of the woods – if they ever get that far.

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