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News

Polish government survives confidence vote

Donald Tusk has won a vote of confidence after vowing to invest billions to revive Poland's economy. The prime minister announced the program amid fears that two decades of solid expansion might slowly come to an end.

A year into his second term, Tusk won the vote 233 to 219 in the 460-seat lower house, allowing him to expand spending. His three-year plan aims to reverse a slide in the government's popularity, mainly over economic discontent.

Tusk's center-right coalition holds a four-seat majority, making the vote largely symbolic. The prime minister sought the confidence vote himself, looking to demonstrate the parliamentary support for his new economic policies. Nevertheless, Poland's currency, the zloty, weakened on Friday with traders nervous Tusk could lose.

Germany's biggest eastern neighbor sustained growth in recent years while many EU economies have sputtered and faced recession. However, recent figures suggest that the Polish economy will expand by only 2 percent next year, a meager figure by national standards.

'Create leverage'

"We should create leverage for investments and credits worth around 40 billion zlotys [10 billion euros, $12.66 billion] until 2015 and around 90 billion zlotys, if we count over six years," Tusk told a session of parliament.

Tusk said investment wouldn't increase debt or deficit. An economic slowdown after two decades of expansion has dented Tusk's popularity.

The global downturn is now making itself felt. Unemployment is rising while offices and apartments built on confidence in Poland's economic miracle now stand empty.

Right-wing resurgence

The slowdown has hurt Tusk's popularity, with polls showing that his party has been overtaken by the right-wing opposition Law and Justice Party. Fading public support could make it harder for him to hold together his governing coalition between now and the next election in three years.

In a measure likely to please voters, Tusk announced that maternity leave would be extended and more help provided to families with children. That was met with a round of applause from parliamentarians listening to the speech.

The plan has its drawbacks. People working on creating the fund acknowledge that it could take a long time to set up. Poland needs cash immediately, however, so the government may have to come up with other ways of getting money in the short term.

mkg/msh (AFP, Reuters, AP, dpa)