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Small Party Exits Poland Coalition

June 6, 2000

WARSAW, Poland (AP) _ The junior partner in Poland’s coalition bolted the 2 1/2-year-old government today, leaving the main Solidarity party without a working majority in parliament and pushing the country closer to early elections.

The Freedom Union said it was abandoning efforts to save the coalition after weeks of negotiations failed to find an acceptable replacement for Prime Minister Jerzy Buzek, whom the small liberal party accuses of failing to push through economic reforms.

Left partnerless, Solidarity moved to keep running the government, even though it no longer has a working majority in parliament.

Solidarity party leader Marian Krzaklewski told reporters that Buzek would present candidates to fill the five Cabinet posts left empty by the departing Freedom Union members.

``At present it is my responsibility to ensure that all state functions continue undisturbed,″ Buzek said. ``I also hope the Freedom Union will be a responsible partner in parliamentary work.″

Infighting that ultimately wrecked the coalition centered on disputes over how to push difficult economic reforms through a reluctant parliament.

The pro-market Freedom Union had demanded that Buzek step aside in favor of a candidate better able to rein in dozens of maverick Solidarity lawmakers who have blocked or stalled key reform bills.

Solidarity had proposed Krzaklewski, but the Freedom Union said it would reject him because they believed he would be no more effective than Buzek.

The Freedom Union has hinted that there were other candidates it might accept, including Labor Minister Longin Komolowski, but Solidarity formally put forward only Krzaklewski’s name.

Some observers believe the Freedom Union wanted to push the coalition to the brink in the hope that the prospect of new elections, which Solidarity probably would lose, might force maverick lawmakers back into line.

Parliamentary elections are not scheduled until the fall of 2001, although the collapse of the coalition could force an earlier vote _ possibly in the fall or next spring, depending on how well a minority government functions.

``We all are aware that a minority government means early elections and the prospect of a defeat,″ said one Solidarity leader, Miroslaw Styczen.

Most recent polls indicate that elections now would be won easily by the Democratic Left Alliance, a cohesive group composed mostly of former communists.

The Freedom Union tried two weeks ago to pull out of Buzek’s Cabinet, but the prime minister rejected the ministers’ resignations and the government continued to stumble along.

The conflict has delayed important decisions due on next year’s budget and undercut the government’s pledge to speed up legislation needed to make Poland’s economy and laws fit for European Union membership.

Warsaw hopes to join the economic bloc by 2003, but EU officials already have said they do not think Poland will be ready before 2005 at its current pace of preparations.

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