Speaker announces resignation on Friday
Poland's Sejm (lower house) Speaker Marek Kuchciński said on Thursday he intends to resign from his position on Friday, though he denied he had broken the law in relation to controversial government flights with family members and others.
Kuchciński told a press conference he intended to resign from the position of Speaker, entrusted to him since November 12, 2015, adding that the controversially high number of flights he took as speaker was determined by the large number of meetings with residents, often of small towns, that he had held during his term in office. He said he had undertaken a model of the speaker's function that worked not only in the Sejm in Warsaw but also around the country and abroad.
"However, because the public negatively assess my behaviour, I have decided I will not be able to further fulfill that function," he said.
Referring to Kuchciński's decision, ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party leader Jarosław Kaczyński said it was proof of an attitude connected with the party's slogan: listen to Poles, serve Poland. Kaczyński also said Kuchciński had not broken the law or acted outside of normal practice. He added that he stood by his position of 2011 concerning flights taken by then Prime Minister Donald Tusk. He said at the time that the prime minister had a right to a home life and that government flights were part of his prime ministerial rights.
Kaczyński went on to say that in the near future a draft law would be submitted to parliament which would "rigorously" regulate flights on the government fleet. He said coordinated action was needed by the offices of the prime minister, president, Sejm and Senate.
He also highlighted the number of flights taken by former Prime Minister Donald Tusk when in office, which he said should interest the press. "In the office of prime minister, over the course of six years and 10 months, Donald Tusk took 281 flights to Gdańsk (...). There were also a range of journeys to exotic countries, destinations attractive to tourists, but as to the political sense there may have been certain doubts," Kaczyński said. "He went there with his wife, and as to with whom he flew to Gdańsk, we do not have exact information, although there is certain incidental information."
PiS informed the press briefing that Donald Tusk and Ewa Kopacz, both prime ministers of the opposition Civic Platform party, between them took 741 government flights between November 31 2011 and October 223, 2015.
"We will regulate this matter because the regulations to date concerning who can fly under what circumstances simply have not existed. There have been several people in the state who had the right to use planes and as a matter of fact that's what happened," Kaczyński said.
Private radio broadcaster Radio Zet originally reported in July it had acquired documents confirming that on six occasions, in the first half of this year, Kuchciński's family members, including his sons, daughter and wife, flew with him on a government jet.
On Thursday, Kuchciński himself said that, since taking up office four years ago, he had taken his family along on 23 flights. He said on one of the flights his wife was even travelling alone.
The speaker said he had donated PLN 15,000 (EUR 3,479) to charity and a further PLN 28,000 (EUR 6,486) to the Armed Forces Modernisation Fund for the flight his wife took. Polish media subsequently listed further flights the speaker had taken with MPs, local councillors and others.