A Polish news magazine said on Sunday it had obtained a secret recording of a former minister saying the ruling party had settled the debts of a rival candidate in the 2005 presidential election in exchange for his withdrawal from the race. The report in Wprost magazine was the latest to emerge from a series of mysterious tapes that have tarnished the government’s reputation and confronted Prime Minister Donald Tusk with his biggest challenge since taking power in 2007. Wprost published what it said were excerpts of a secret conversation at a restaurant between Slawomir Nowak, a former infrastructure minister, and Dariusz Zawadka, a former head of military special forces and now deputy head of oil pipelines operator PERN.
According to the transcript published by Wprost on its website, the two men discussed the 2005 presidential election, in which prominent heart surgeon Zbigniew Religa announced he would run but later withdrew and backed Tusk. “In 2005, I remember, we took over his debts so that he pulled out,” Nowak was quoted by Wprost as saying. Religa’s campaign staff had “racked up huge debts”, he added. “And he supported Donald, right? It was just because we’ve paid his debts.”
Tusk lost the election in a second round run-off to Lech Kaczynski, who served as president until he died in a plane crash in 2010. Tusk became prime minister in 2007, after his Civic Platform party won a parliamentary election.
In the excerpts published by Wprost, neither of the interlocutors mentions Religa’s name, but the magazine said it was him they were discussing.