The governor, the minister and the restaurant

FTI Consulting Brussels’ Justyna Slominska comments on the unsavoury scandal that’s been cooking in a Warsaw restaurant

Have you heard the one about the interior minister, the central bank governor and the deposed finance minister? Unfortunately, the major political scandal breaking right now in Polish politics is no joke, and may still see a major reshaping of the Polish political landscape…

Wprost news magazine has over the course of the past days been publishing online segments of a recording of a meeting in a Warsaw restaurant that took place in June 2013 between Poland’s Central Bank Governor Marek Belka and the country’s Interior Minister Bartlomiej Sienkiewicz. On the tape Sienkiewicz is clearly identified asking Belka if the central bank would help the government avoid electoral defeat by cutting interest rates ahead of local elections the following year (autumn 2014) if Poland faced economic meltdown. The minister sets out a scenario in which the government is unable to meet its financial commitments, and refers in vague terms to monetary policy action carried out elsewhere in Europe – an apparent reference to central bank stimulus. As if this weren’t bad enough, the Governor appears to demand that Poland’s then Finance Minister Jacek Rostowski be fired in return, an apparent settling of accounts, as Belka and Rostowski had frequently clashed publicly. Rostowski was fired last November as part of a cabinet reshuffle, a decision that is now raising eyebrows.

The scandal has rocked the Polish political establishment to its foundations and the mood in Poland is extremely restive. So far no heads have rolled, but that may just be a question of time: Jaroslaw Kaczynski, leader of the opposition Law and Justice party, has called for Prime Minister Donald Tusk’s Civic Platform government to resign, and has said he would call for a vote of no-confidence in the government. For the moment Tusk is digging in his heels, rejecting calls for his government to resign, saying he sees no evidence of illegality in the taped conversation.

How long he will be able to maintain that position is a moot question: the scandal doesn’t seem to be going away any time soon, as insiders tell us that not all of the tape recordings seem to have been published yet.

Interestingly, Wprost has not stated who recorded their conversation, or how it obtained these recordings…

Justyna Slominska is a Consultant at FTI Consulting Brussels.


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