Schism rifts Poland's ruling party over minister's assistant

AP News
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Posted: Apr 12, 2017 12:29 PM
Schism rifts Poland's ruling party over minister's assistant

WARSAW, Poland (AP) — A conflict has erupted in the top ranks of Poland's ruling party that pits the party's powerful chairman against the country's defense minister.

At the center of the dispute is a 27-year-old male assistant to Defense Minister Antoni Macierewicz who has enjoyed unusual privileges, raising eyebrows in Warsaw.

Law and Justice leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski on Wednesday suspended the assistant, Bartlomiej Misiewicz, from the party and ordered a commission to investigate the lucrative defense industry jobs and other preferential treatment he has received. Misiewicz was to appear before the commission Thursday.

The moves are meant to "protect the good image of the Law and Justice party," party spokeswoman Beata Mazurek said.

In his role as ministry spokesman, Misiewicz has been saluted by soldiers and called "minister," honors not normally imparted to civilians.

Misiewicz, a former pharmacy assistant without a university degree, also has been given lucrative jobs in the defense industry under Macierewicz. His treatment has raised ethics concerns in a party that won office promising to fight corruption.

He was appointed last year to the supervisory board of Polska Grupa Zbrojeniowa (PGZ), one of the largest defense consortiums in Central Europe. The company's bylaws state its board members must have college degrees, but the rules were changed to let Misiewicz join.

The Rzeczpospolita daily newspaper reported this week that Misiewicz was given a job with PGZ that pays 50,000 zlotys ($12,500) a month, huge sum in a country where the average pre-tax wage is about $1,150 a month.

The company denied the claim, but it appeared to be the trigger for Kaczynski's decision to order an investigation into Misiewicz.

Some observers think Misiewicz is part of a larger power struggle between Kaczynski and the defense minister.

"It's a new war at the top," said Wladyslaw Kosiniak-Kamysz, head of a small opposition party, PSL.