Polish Prime Minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski fired his deputy on Monday, causing the junior partner to quit the government and threatening the coalition's parliamentary majority.
Kaczynski said that Andrzej Lepper, the deputy prime minister and agricultural minister, was dismissed after his name was linked to a major corruption case involving "a large bribe, in the millions."
"I can't exclude the possibility that Andrzej Lepper was involved in criminal activity, and this is sufficient reason [for his dismissal]," Kaczynski said.
Lepper said he was innocent, and that his Self-Defense party would pull out of the conservative governing coalition.
"Self-Defense is leaving the government, we are not going to participate in this sort of government," Lepper said. "The coalition is finished."
That left many open questions about the government's future.
The prime minister said Lepper could rejoin government only if a prosecutor found him innocent of corruption and his farm-based party remained in the three-party coalition.
Members from the Leading Law and Justice Party suggested Self-Defense could stay in the government, but without Lepper.
But in an interview on Polish state TV, Kaczynski also suggested the crisis could result in early elections later this year -- two years ahead of schedule.
"If the government can't forge a new majority, snap elections could be held in the fall," Kaczynski said.
The loss of Self-Defense's 46 votes in the 460-seat parliament would deprive Kaczynski's government of its majority.
At best, the government could muster 203 votes, far short of the 231 necessary for a ruling majority.
Kaczynski's government could continue to govern as a minority, however, the prime minister seemed to rule out that option.
"A minority government would be impossible in the long run," Kaczynski said. "That's why we'll be oriented toward the election solution because a helpless government would not be in the interests of the country."
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