Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Polish Watergate II

Hear the secretly filmed tapes (with transcript) by Renata Beger for yourself here

A few hundred people have been outside the Sejm, the parliament building, protesting against the Law and Justice (PiS) government’s (alleged) corruption.

The extraordinary Teraz My program on TVN last night, showing a member of the ruling party seemingly bribing MP Renata Beger (pictured above emerging from tractor) to join them in a new coalition, has left most Poles gobsmacked.

Sixty Five percent told pollsters today that parliament should be dissolved and new elections called.

Like all alleged corruption scandals the details are complicated. But basically, the TV program showed PiS’s Adam Lipinski offering Samoobrona member Beger a post in the cabinet and other incentives to join the government. But what has scandalized Poles is that he also offered to set up a ‘fund’ of tax payers money to pay for any penalty Beger or other members of Samoobrona would have to give to their party if they left it to join the government. (When Samoobrona members entered parliament last year they were asked to sign an contract agreeing that if they left the party during the time they were MPs then they would have to pay a substantial fine. It’s thought that this agreement is actually unconstitutional but Beger didn’t know that for sure at the time of the alleged bribe – neither did Lipinski.)

Government spokesmen have been defending themselves by saying that the secret recording of the conversation in the hotel used by lawmakers was ‘illegal’ [?]. They are saying the whole thing was a ‘set up’ to make the government look bad (er…well, it does). They are saying that anything that was offered to Beger was part of the usual horse trading of coalition building (Oh, really?). They are also saying that the ‘fund’ for the Samoobrona splinter group would be paid for by PiS, not the tax payer (the legality of even that is questionable).

Renata Beger has been prancing around the place looking very pleased with herself. She is saying she cooperated with the TV crew because she simply couldn’t stand seeing public life being ‘corrupted in this way’.

A truly amazing comment as this year she was found guilty of making up the list of sponsorship signatures lawmakers need to qualify as a candidate for parliament. Renata is a sleazy pot calling PiS’s kettle black.

As the above opinion poll shows, average Poles are disgusted by the recent antics. This government campaigned on bringing in a ‘moral revolution’ in Poland after years of sleaze and corruption. And here, it seems, we are again.

An election now looks almost certain (surly!) as it will be very difficult for other political parties to enter into agreements with Law and Justice. Anyone who does join this government now must be into self-abuse, in all its forms.

But this is bad news for politics in Poland in general. It will drive Poles further still away from politicians, who they already believe are a bunch of rancid, cynical pygmies.

But the planned march against the government on October 7 looks like it will be very interesting indeed.


Anonymous said...

Now lets see how the ducks can get out of this! Step one - Adam Lipinski must fall on his sword immediately, i.e. something like this would work “ I was acting on my own and had no authority to proceed this way, it was bad judgement please accept my resignation”
Step two – Working with the list of commercial interests in TVN, their employees and Renata Beger. It should be easy to find a list of people with connections to the communists real or imagined, now you got your conspiracy. Step three - Tent camp in front of the parliament building, easy a little applied violence on the part of responsible groups of young people like skin heads etc.

Sadly the ducks would find the above rational advice, probably why they’re in trouble in the first place.

beatroot said...

Renata Beger must have some communist connections, she is in Samoobrona. They ARE ex-communists.

The Prime Minister is speaking tonight but he has kept out of things up until now. I will update what he says in the post.

Can they get out of this? How are they going to get a coalition together now? They will keep trying because they have to now but I think it’s elections.

And I have predicted election three times this year already, so you are free to completely ignore me.

Gustav said...

I'm just watching the film where they show the offer of the Sejm "fund" for the first time now, and I have some impressions you all might disagree with (That's what a blog is for, right?).

The first is that I think Lipinski is lying. No, not now, not to us - to Renata Beger. He doesn't know what the heck he's talking about. He's promising some nebulous "fund" will come out of the sky and save these deputies. I seriously doubt he or PiS had any intention of keeping that promise - or at least it would have been damn hard. He keeps saying "I'm not a lawyer, but..." and then offers very little detail. I think the idea was to promise Beger and her friends anything to get them into a coalition that could pass the budget, and worry about the fallout later.

Sure, it wouldn't have been legal. But would PiS have done it? I'm skeptical.

Secondly, it seems Miss Beger is seriously baiting him. Her questions are short, sharp, to the point. She's trying to get this guy to misstep. It's no suprise that he does. What impresses me is that he manages to promise so little!

Maybe I'm a cynical American - but I find these things the stuff of government. It ain't pretty, but hardly criminal.

I don't like PiS, and I'm not defending them. I don't want them to rule, and I don't think they will for much longer. You're right that it will be nearly impossible for them to find coalition partners. And their excuse - "It's all a commie plot! It's provocation! - is no good.

But when it all boils down: Is what Lipinski did really that bad?

beatroot said...

Miss Beger is seriously baiting him. Her questions are short, sharp, to the point. She's trying to get this guy to misstep. It's no surprise that he does.

Maybe, but have you asked yourself why Beger got TVN in on this in the first place? She had obviously been offered these bribes before and thought: right, I am gonna get them. Rang up TVN, bingo! She was not leading him, she was making him say something he had said to her before….and she was making sure the camera recorded it this time…

And I know that American politicians are as rancid as you will find anywhere and that is part of your system but ‘buying a coalition’ is not ‘morally’ if not legally OK. And from a government that styles itself as whiter than white, that stinks.

Anonymous said...

I'm with Gustav on this one. I'll be glad to see PiS bite the dust but what Lipinski said amounts to not very much. In a private conversation he promised the sun, the moon and the stars to a politician...

Before the elections PiS promised their electorate they would buikd three million homes. Why should we now be exercised by a white lie told to a gullible politician?

michael farris said...

Comments eaten twice, maybe I'll be lucky:

"The first is that I think Lipinski is lying"

Yes, of course, and not even very convincingly (and he's noticably talking down to her).

Actually this is a pretty common scenario in Polish life. A middleman delivers a 'no' from above and tries to convince the person that it might somehow become a yes (while carefully avoiding details and commitments).
I've been on both sides of it myself and I'm sure beat and gustav have too.

As corruption it isn't. But it is sleaze and PiS has tried to sell itself as the anti-sleaze party. You know the ones who won't lie or make cheap deals to hold onto power (unlike a certain układ they could mention). Well it doesn't get much cheaper than crude quid pro quid negotiations with Beger in a shabby hotel room.

PiS has three sides in decreasing order of popularity among its voters.

1. Anti-corruption
2. Social solidarity
3. Revenge against the commies

2. Has been dead in the water for some time now (see apartments, new, 3 million; see agreement, unreached, with anyone besides LPR) and this takes a big swipe out of 1. (in terms of people's perceptions at least) which leaves them with 3. their least popular issue.

Latest move by the increasingly tone deaf PiS PR machine? Let's ban Samoobrona!,11,item.html

beatroot said...

If Lipinski was lying to Beger about the setting up of these ‘funds’ for ex-Samoobeona then why did Gosiewski repeat the offer on TVN last night? He was saying that this money would come from PiS’s private accounts not the state’s.

So this was a plan they were considering…

cam buse said...

Just want to say your article is as amazing. The clarity in your post is simply nice and I can assume you are an expert on this subject. Fine with your permission allow me to grab your RSS feed to keep updated with forthcoming post. Thanks a million and please keep up the gratifying work. cam buse