Donald Tusk, Poland’s prime minister, on Wednesday responded to a lobbying scandal with the biggest cabinet shuffle in almost two years.
He also began procedures to fire the head of the anti-corruption agency that sparked the crisis.
The scandal erupted last week, when a Polish newspaper published transcripts of Zbigniew Chlebowski, the then head of the ruling Civic Platform party’s parliamentary wing, talking to a casino company head about removing a planned tax increase from a new gambling law.
The crisis creates acute political dangers for Mr Tusk. His centrist government had been regarded as clean and competent, contributing to Civic Platform’s steady support of about half the electorate. Any damage to that reputation could harm the prime minister’s expected campaign for the presidency next year.
Mr Tusk has moved swiftly to reclaim the political initiative. The first to go was Mr Chlebowski, who was pushed aside last week. Miroslaw Drzewiecki, the sports minister, who was mentioned in the transcript, quit on Monday. Both denied any wrongdoing, and no one has been charged or accused of accepting bribes in return for legislative action.
With the scandal dominating Polish media and opinion polls showing a drop in support for Civic Platform, Mr Tusk on Wednesday removed Andrzej Czuma, the justice minister, Adam Szejnfeld, the deputy economy minister, and Grzegorz Schetyna, the interior minister and deputy prime minister. Three of Mr Tusk’s closest advisers, including his spokesman, are also returning to parliament from the prime minister’s office.
“We want to clarify all questions linked to the gambling affair, no matter what it may mean to individual participants,” Mr Tusk said. “Some words and gestures crossed the boundary of what is acceptable and these people are no longer functioning in public life.”
The premier also began the process of firing Mariusz Kaminski, head of the Anti-Corruption Bureau, whose agents revealed the affair in August and whom Mr Tusk accused of trying to set a political trap for him. He said Mr Kaminski, a former MP from the opposition Law and Justice party, had tried to entrap him by letting him know about potential ethical problems of government members. Mr Tusk said if he had acted on the information, he would have been accused of betraying state secrets, while if he did nothing he would be blamed for letting a crisis fester.
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