Thursday, February 12, 2009

Polish MP finds provocative remarks costly

Janusz Palikot
Poland has at least temporarily lost its political clown prince, MP Janusz Palikot, who horrified and amused Poles with his provocative news conferences and his inflammatory blog, but who performed useful work as the head of a parliamentary commission aimed at slashing the red tape constricting the country’s economy.

Mr Palikot resigned on Tuesday as head of the commission after causing yet another scandal that the ruling Civic Platform party could not ignore.

In recent days he had accused Grazyna Gesicka, the former minister of regional development, of politically “prostituting herself” for questioning the government’s statistics in applying for EU funds. More seriously, he suggested that Jaroslaw Kaczynski, the head of the right-wing opposition Law and Justice party, may be gay.

Those were the latest in a long series of provocations which had turned the floppy-haired Mr Palikot into one of Poland’s most recognisable politicians. Earlier he had wondered whether Lech Kaczynski, the president and twin brother of the opposition leader, had a problem with alcohol. He had also held a news conference during which he waved around a pistol and a vibrator, accusing police of rape.

His outbursts had been tolerated because of his work on the commission. The former liquor magnate attacked Poland’s many ridiculous laws and regulations with a vengeance, and was strongly supported by business. Donald Tusk, the prime minister, has made battling red tape one of the centrepieces of his government, and Mr Palikot was the project’s most visible face.

In its first year the commission pushed through many changes in tax law that made it more difficult for tax authorities to needlessly harass business, and automatically converted farmland within city boundaries into building land.

But a visibly angry Mr Tusk had evidently had enough of the problems generated by Mr Palikot.

The chastened MP, who will now be the deputy head of the commission, told reporters on Tuesday that giving up his post, “Made me feel like I was dying.”