Parliamentary Speaker resigns over travel controversy

Marek Kuchciński, Speaker of the Lower House of Parliament will resign from his office on Friday. He said that he was bowing to public opinion as it had been felt that trust had been abused.

Speaker defiant over his right to HEAD air travel

Speaker Marek Kuchciński makes a public statement on allegations that he undertook inappropriate travel with his family at the state’s expense.

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The leader of the ruling Law and Justice (PiS) Jarosław Kaczyński, praised the Speaker for bowing to public opinion. However, he pointed out that previous PM, Donald Tusk, had used VIP flights to come backwards and forwards from his constituency, some with his family on board, and that he hoped the media would take more interest in the propriety of these actions.

Mr Kaczyński also said that his party would review procedures for such flights so that they specified who is and who is not allowed those flights and on what conditions and basis.

The outgoing Speaker of Parliament Marek Kuchciński has faced a barrage of criticism for the fact that members of his family had been on state flights (in one case without the presence of the Speaker himself) and that he had used these flights to travel backwards and forwards from his constituency and not just on state occasions. It also transpired that the Speaker had also hosted PiS politicians on board his flights back to his electoral district.

He was also criticised for the fact that he and one of his officials in Parliament had misled public opinion by originally denying that such instances had taken place.

The Speaker subsequently apologised to those who felt offended. He, first of all, paid PLN 15,000 to charities to cover the costs of participation of his family in VIP flights. Later he stated that he would pay an additional PLN 28,000 PLN for the flight his wife took on a flight on which he was not present.

Comment:

There is no evidence that any laws have been broken by the Speaker’s actions. And VIPs such as PM Donald Tusk have in the past used flights to go backwards and forwards between their place of abode and their place of work in Warsaw. However, the ruling party has found the matter awkward.

PiS wanted to deal with an image problem. Negative coverage which was making it seem that the ruling party had been extravagant.

We are at the beginning of an election campaign and the ruling party wants as few distractions as possible. It also wanted to portray itself as being sensitive to public opinion.

The Speaker has fallen on his sword to help his party. There was only two months left of his term of office and it was never likely that he would be renewed by his party after the election.

However, his departure cannot enhance his own reputation and marks closure of an episode which Poland’s governing party could have done without.


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