POLAND yesterday struggled to wade out of a spy scandal that strikes at the heart of the nation's government and raises concern over how completely its leaders have severed their ties to Communism.
Jozef Oleksy announced on TV Wednesday that he would resign as prime minister after the Warsaw military prosecutor decided to launch a formal investigation into allegations that he spied for Moscow in the 1980s and 1990s.
His announcement highlights Poland's most jarring political crisis since the end of Communist rule in 1989. Mr. Oleksy, who was once head of the ideology department of the Communist Party's Central Committee, says that he never gave information to the KGB. But the investigation raises concern over the Communist roots of his party, the Social Democratic Alliance (SLD), which controls parliament and the presidency.
The spy allegations also raise fears over Poland's eligibility for NATO membership. ''Internal matters connected with the political crisis in Poland are the quickest way to dissolve what is good for the state. This crisis threatens our integration into NATO and the European Union,'' said Tadeusz Wilecki, head of the general staff of the Polish Army.
The scandal also has fueled rumors that Western intelligence agencies tipped off Poland's secret service to Oleksy's alleged cooperation with Moscow. Others speculate that Moscow is trying to destabilize Poland because they do not want their former Warsaw pact ally to join NATO.
Now the coalition has two weeks to form a new government, or the parliament will be dissolved and new elections will be called. The coalition met yesterday with President Alexander Kwasniewski to discuss the forming of a new government.
At least one person finds triumph in the crisis: former President Lech Walesa. The anti-Communist leader of the underground Solidarity movement was defeated in November elections at the hands of Mr. Kwasniewski, a former Communist official. During the campaign, Mr. Walesa warned voters of the return of the ''red web.'' Walesa's minister of the internal affairs filed charges against Oleksy just before Walesa left office in December.
Now Walesa is trying to form a coalition of parties on the right in case there are early elections. ''In a stable democratic country, the only solution in a situation like this would be to hold early elections,'' he said after hearing the prosecutor's decision.
The evidence against Oleksy is based on claims that he gave information to two Soviet officials who were known as KGB spies. Oleksy befriended the agents when they lived in the Warsaw district known as the ''Bay of Red Pigs.'' Moscow says that Oleksy was not an agent for them.
Further allegations have emerged in the press over the last month, snowballing the scandal. A story in the weekly magazine Wprost claims that other members of the SLD spied for Moscow when they were a part of Poland's Communist government.
Negotiations to form a new government will be complicated, because the Peasants Party, the SLD's coalition partner, says that if it is not happy with the government restructuring, it might join the right-wing opposition.