President Lech Walesa, declaring that the Polish public is sick of a "condition of permanent crisis," asked Parliament on Friday to grant him strong executive powers, including the right to appoint the prime minister and his Cabinet.
Condemning the paralysis that has seized the badly fragmented Parliament, Walesa asked the lawmakers to enact a "small constitution" that would give him presidential powers similar to those wielded by the president in the French system.
"Our country needs a master of the house and an effective executive branch, which, when it is weak and does not stand the test, may be reconstructed quickly," Walesa said.
Walesa's proposal came two days after the Parliament soundly rejected government pleas to reject a court decision that will raise state salaries and pensions, thereby driving the country's budget deficit beyond limits set by the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
Wednesday's parliamentary vote underlined the weakness of the government of Prime Minister Jan Olszewski, which has been unable to get a basic budget passed by the lawmakers.
Olszewski, whose shaky coalition is made up of seven or eight parties in a Parliament divided by 29 political groups, has remained determined through successive setbacks to form a working government. But he has been beset by numerous ministerial defections, and his attempts to broaden his coalition have angered some of its original backers.
After the vote on the pension issue Wednesday, Finance Minister Andrzej Olechowski angrily resigned, becoming the second Finance Ministry chief to quit the government in five months.