WARSAW, Poland (AP) — Trying to tough it out in an accelerating government crisis, Poland’s prime minister said Thursday that early elections within weeks may be necessary to calm the situation sparked by eavesdropping on political leaders.
Donald Tusk called for the popular magazine Wprost — and other media — to release all of the secret recordings of leaders’ private conversations that they may have. He said Poland was facing a “deep crisis” and that until it is all published the state will be unstable and his team vulnerable to blackmail.
The hastily arranged news conference on a national holiday sparked a whirl of speculation of an imminent dismissal of one or more officials, or possibly even Tusk’s resignation. But responding to a journalist’s question, Tusk said he saw no reason to step down.
“I will not resign in response to actions that, we all know, had criminal character, and, maybe were …. aimed at the government’s resignation or fall,” Tusk said.
He said that early elections “in a matter of a few or more weeks” may be necessary if this “crisis of confidence becomes too deep.” He is to decide next week on the fate of Interior Minister Bartlomiej Sienkiewicz, who is heard on the tape.
Supporting the idea of early elections, President Bronislaw Komorowski said a democratic decision is called for when state institutions cannot react to difficult situations. But that is an unpalatable option for Tusk, whose Civil Platform party is trailing the opposition Law and Justice party in opinion polls after seven years in power.
Tusk’s news conference followed an attempt Wednesday evening by police and state prosecutors to seize evidence from the headquarters of the magazine. The chief editor, Sylwester Latkowski, put up strong resistance and demanded a court order. The authorities left without taking away any computers.
Wprost recently released transcripts and online audio of recordings of a restaurant conversation last July between National Bank of Poland chief Marek Belka and Sienkiewicz, in which they discussed how the central bank might use its power to help the government win re-election in 2015. Critics have decried the apparent collusion as a violation of the bank’s independence from political interference.
Tusk, Sienkiewicz and Belka all say the discussion was about hypothetical scenarios and had no influence on policy.
At one point in the conversation, Belka is heard demanding that Jacek Rostowski be removed as Poland’s finance minister. Rostowski was fired four months later.
The magazine said it is working to have more recordings published on Monday. It says it obtained the recordings from a third party, whose identity it is allowed to protect under Poland’s media law.
On its pages, the magazine posed the key question: Who taped the conversations? It suggested that past or current secret agents, businessmen or Tusk’s political opponents were possibilities.
Prosecutors said that the manager of the restaurant, identified only as Lukasz N., was detained in the case and is formally a suspect on two counts of unauthorized access to information. In Poland, bugging or wiretapping to get unauthorized access to information is punishable by up to two years in prison.