Sunday, October 08, 2006

Opposition rally calls for new elections in Poland

Thousands marched through the streets of the Polish capital Saturday, calling for new elections and the ouster of the government after weeks of political turmoil.

More than 10,000 people carrying opposition Civic Platform placards and Poland's red-and-white flag marched through downtown, urging Prime Minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski -- whose Cabinet no longer has majority support in Parliament -- to step aside.
"A good government is for people to feel free and safe, and the road to that is new elections," Civic Platform leader Donald Tusk said at a rally at a square outside the Royal Castle. "We want new elections; we want a better government."
Three weeks ago, Kaczynski dumped the leader of the rural-based Self-Defense party from his Cabinet, causing his government to lose majority support.
He immediately launched preliminary coalition talks with the opposition Polish Peasant's Party. But those collapsed two weeks ago after footage was broadcast showing a government aide offering a senior government post to a Self-Defense lawmaker in exchange for her membership in Kaczynski's Law and Justice party.
The tape sparked fierce criticism of Kaczynski's party, plunging the government into crisis and increasing the prospect of early elections.
Opposition lawmakers accused Law and Justice of corruption and filed a motion for a vote to dissolve Parliament. Senior lawmakers added the motion to the agenda of Parliament's starting session Tuesday. A vote could be held Friday.
Supporters of Kaczynski's party held a pro-government rally in front of the Palace of Culture, and backers of the League of Polish Families, a junior partner in the ruling coalition, separately took to the streets to support the government.