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Poland's opposition wants defense minister dismissed

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.The Associated Press
Friday, April 21, 2017 01:28 pm

WARSAW, Poland - Poland's main opposition party on Friday called for the dismissal of Defense Minister Antoni Macierewicz, saying his actions and choice of aides raised security questions.

Macierewicz has been considered a controversial figure ever since he appeared in Polish politics in the early 1990s. The opposition says he is harming Poland's army, a NATO member.

Grzegorz Schetyna, leader of the pro-European Civic Platform party, said it was seeking a parliament no-confidence vote on Macierewicz.

The vote is expected to fail, given the ruling party's parliamentary majority. Prime Minister Beata Szydlo said she was not considering Macierewicz's dismissal.

But Schetyna said the defense minister should go because of his choice of two aides who lacked the proper qualifications for their sensitive jobs.

Bartlomiej Misiewicz, 27, sometimes represented Macierewicz and was saluted to by officers. The second one, Waclaw Berczynski, an emigre professor based in the U.S., was head of the ministry's special commission tasked with proving that the 2010 plane crash in Smolensk, Russia, that killed President Lech Kaczynski resulted from a bomb attack.

Aviation experts have found that the crash was an accident. But the ruling party, Jaroslaw Kaczynski, the late president's twin brother, still rallies supporters around the conspiracy theory.

Schetyna also pointed to Poland's last-minute withdrawal from a helicopter deal worth billions of euros. "Such non-transparent deals raise questions of corruption," Schetyna said.

The ruling Law and Justice party won the 2015 election largely on promises its government will fight corruption.

Berczynski recently said he was behind the cancellation of the helicopter deal, provoking an outcry over why a private citizen was given access to ministry documents. On Thursday, the defense minister accepted his resignation.

Misiewicz, meanwhile, was dismissed due to pressure from Kaczynski.

Despite the resignations of his aides, political analyst Anna Materska-Sosnowska says Macierewicz still has a very strong position in the ruling party "based on the 'Smolensk myth'" that he supports.

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