Internal local elections can be boring affairs. Often the results are easily predictable beforehand and the debates between candidates can resemble poorly written school plays.
But an election for the leadership of the ruling Civic Platform (PO) in the southern Polish region of Lower Silesia has ended in a scandal that has trained the spotlight on a long-running internal battle between two party heavyweights: Prime Minister Donald Tusk and PO deputy leader Grzegorz Schetyna.
Formerly allies, Grzegorz Schetyna (left) and Prime Minister Donald Tusk (right) have been butting heads within the Civic Platform party for years now
Courtesy of Maciej Śmiarowski/KPRM
Mr Schetyna, who had dominated the party in Lower Silesia for years, lost the leadership election to MP Jacek Protasiewicz by a slim, nine-vote margin.
But strangely, just hours after the election results were announced, the Polish edition of Newsweek revealed a taped conversation in which Civic Platform MP Norbert Wojnarowski offered another party member, Edward Klimka, a job at state-owned copper giant KGHM in exchange for supporting Mr Protasiewicz.
Mr Klimka confirmed he had been offered the job and said he received a phone call from a KGHM board member shortly after the conversation ended.
That in itself was enough to ignite a political firestorm. But the twists to the story would have even given Agatha Christie reason to raise an eyebrow.
It turns out that Mr Klimka was already employed at one of KGHM’s subsidiaries when the conversation took place. What’s more, he reportedly works in a department run by a relative of one of Mr Schetyna’s closest allies.
Later on, Newsweek released a video recording of another conversation in which Civic Platform politicians offered another Lower Silesian PO member similar incentives in exchange for supporting Mr Protasiewicz.
Mr Protasiewicz claims that the conversations and recordings constitute a setup organized by his opponents. He maintains that he never asked anyone to make any such offers in return for votes.
The blame game
The fallout resulted in Civic Platform’s leaders meeting for six hours behind closed doors. During the consultations, Mr Tusk put most of the blame on Mr Schetyna, according to daily Gazeta Wyborcza.
“The prime minister said that Mr Schetyna should have revealed the tapes before the vote, not after he knew that he had lost,” the newspaper quoted an unnamed party leader as saying.
Mr Tusk apparently added that he was fed up with others in the party and government undermining his authority.
“Whoever wants to lead [Civic Platform] should have run in the party elections. Mr Schetyna decided against it but he continues to criticize the government,” the newspaper quoted the source as saying.
In the end, Civic Platform leaders decided to uphold the results of the election in Lower Silesia and suspended everyone involved in the taped conversations while the situation is further investigated.
The biggest loser looks to be Mr Schetyna, whose chances of remaining a deputy leader in the party are now slim to none.
Mr Schetyna had been Prime Minister Donald Tusk’s closest ally for years. But in 2011, after a series of disagreements, the two politicians had a falling out which lasts to this day.
Though he has remained deputy leader of the party, Mr Schetyna has not held a public post since November 2011, when his term as speaker of the Sejm ended. His loss in Lower Silesia, as well as its aftermath, may be the final nails in the coffin in terms of his battle for influence in the party.
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