Undercover recordings reveal political deal making in Poland

Renata Beger

A political scandal is rocking Poland. It involves recordings made in secret and aired on an independent TV station. On the recording a high ranking politician from the ruling conservative party is heard to ask an opposition MP what she wants for switching sides. The background to this is the collapse of the coalition between conservatives, nationalists and populists in a dispute over public finances and Poland's role in the US-led mission in Afghanistan. Slawek Szefs reports:

The scandal broke out after TVN, one of the leading commercial stations, broadcast a late Tuesday evening program playing soundtracks and showing a hidden camera report on eye to eye political bargains conducted between MP Renata Beger, a top figure in the Self-Defense party and Adam Lipinski and Wojciech Mojzesowicz, two parliamentarians of Law and Justice (PiS) who are also members of the Prime Minister's Office.

Following the withdrawal of Self-Defense from the Law and Justice led government coalition over budget disputes, the former had become the target of all kinds of persuasive arguments to abandon their party ranks and form a separate parliamentary club.

Its role would be to provide support for Law and Justice initiatives to gain a necessary majority in the House. Self-defense MPs had been held in check by their leader Andrzej Lepper who vowed to make use of written financial declarations of his party colleagues who had pledged not to leave SelfDefence ranks. Renegades would be penalized, he promised. However, Renata Beger showed active interest in the Law and Justice proposition, or so it seemed when she approached its representatives. They met in the privacy of her room at the parliamentary hotel to openly discuss the issue. Beger demanded guarantees of a high government post for herself and preferential treatment for those who would follow her example. Then there was also the problem of the financial commitments in favor of Self-Defense. Adam Lipinski assured there would be no problems with either issue.

Extracts from the TVN tapes:

Beger: "Would you be able to provide me with financial security, if something happens? The remainder will follow automatically."

Lipinski: "We've been trying to figure out a way. Theoretically there's a possibility of billing the House for that, if Lepper decides to go through with his plans."

A massive attack by many politicians and commentators prompted the Prime Minister to appear in a televised address to the nation. In his speech, Jaroslaw Kaczynski enumerated the attainments of his cabinet, highlighting Poland's good economic performance, social changes, national security issues and a staunch determination to continue work on finding suitable parliamentary support for Law and Justice initiatives. He also praised his party's electorate.

"All those who in the elections supported the Law and Justice concept of changes have reason for pride."

Professor Andrzej Zybertowicz from the University in Torun says the address had been delivered in a short and decisive manner, but had one definite shortcoming. It seemed targeted at a Law and Justice audience only.

"This speech didn't help overcome doubts of those who felt anxious with the recent developments. The PM did not meet the fears of those people who do not feel at ease with the present situation."

Donald Tusk, chairman of the major opposition Civic Platform (PO), said his party is appalled by the actions of the Law and Justice camp and its lack of moral shame over the practices employed in a desperate attempt at staying in power. Therefore, the Civic Platform has filed a motion for an immediate dissolution of Parliament and calling early elections.

"Corruption, attempts at bribing MPs and the engagement of top administration officials in this horrid action are the reasons for filing this motion."

Now, various experts are facing a series of questions starting from the legality of the manner in which the tapes of political barter had been registered, through the procedures applied in establishing a parliamentary investigation - something Renata Beger has suggested herself, but on condition its members would be appointed by the new House, after fresh elections. Polish society, in turn, must be wondering whether earlier Law and Justice declarations of a moral renewal of the political scene had only been empty election rhetoric.