Just before he relinquishes the presidency on Saturday to his ex-communist foes, Lech Walesa gave them an explosive Christmas present - charges that Prime Minister Jozef Oleksy was a spy for Moscow.
President Walesa, who won a Nobel Peace Prize for his fight against communism in the 1980s, has long battled against the current parliament. The parliament is controlled by Mr. Oleksy's ex-communist party, the Democratic Left Alliance (SLD). Walesa has had a hard time accepting that he will have to give up the presidency this weekend to another former communist, Alexander Kwasniewski.
But the crisis could bring down the SLD's government if its coalition partner, the Polish Peasant Party (PSL), demands that the spy issue be examined in parliament. There has also been talk of early parliamentary elections.
"The situation in Poland is very important and requires an exact explanation. We need responsibility throughout the political scene," said Waldemar Pawlak, a former prime minister replaced by Oleksy and leader of the Peasant Party, the coalition partner of the SLD.
The allegations against Mr. Oleksy have come from unofficial and unconfirmed leaks by members of President Walesa's staff. The military prosecutor, after reviewing the evidence, will determine as early as today whether to launch an inquiry.
Oleksy has denied the accusations, calling them a "dirty provocation." Rus sian intelligence and defense intelligence sources have denied any cooperation on Oleksy's part, claiming they "don't have any documents on Oleksy or president-elect Alexander Kwasniewski."
POLITICAL observers say the spying charge against Oleksy is Walesa's final attempt to destabilize the current socialist-led government and let the public know that there are ex-communists with a murky past before he returns to private life.
After the election he charged that Kwasniewski had lied about his education in the campaign, but he lost his bid to overturn the results.
Allegations against former communists have been an issue during Walesa's term. Such charges of politicians' dark past during communism may be a recurrent theme in Poland for years to come because the secret police files are not public knowledge.
The irony is that in the past, similar innuendos have been used against Walesa. In 1992, Prime Minister Jan Olszewski was forced to resign because his Cabinet wanted to make the files public. Olszewski said Walesa was an informant against the Solidarity trade union he led.