New Polish prime minister faces tough task

 

Pro-market leftist Mr Marek Belka became Poland's new prime minister today and faced a daunting task of restoring political stability in the biggest new member of the European Union.

A day after Poland and nine other countries celebrated EU entry, a somber-looking Mr Belka took over the reins of power from his unpopular predecessor Mr Leszek Miller at a ceremony in Warsaw's presidential palace.

Accepting Mr Miller's long-anticipated resignation, President Aleksander Kwasniewski praised him for getting Poland into the EU but admonished the outgoing cabinet for an unprecedented wave of corruption scandals which have eroded its popularity.

"I am certain that after some time, when emotions cool, this government's European track record will be appreciated," Mr Kwasniewski said. "But scandals and pathology, even small scale, cannot be taken lightly because people must trust their leaders."

Mr Kwasniewski swore in Mr Belka's cabinet, which will include a number of ministers from the outgoing administration.

The ruling Democratic Left Alliance hopes Belka, a respected economist, will help it regain public trust ahead of parliamentary elections due next year.

But the party and its small band of allies lack a sufficient majority in the 460-seat lower house to ensure he wins a vote of confidence, which is mandatory within two weeks.