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Poland opposition leader slammed for vacation during crisis

Associated Press logo Associated Press 3/01/2017
FILE - In this Oct. 20, 2015 file photo leader of the popular opposition party .Nowoczesna, Ryszard Petru, greets supporters after a televised parliamentary elections debate in Warsaw, Poland. Petru's party Modern is now facing questions about its credibility after he took a private foreign trip with a female party member at a time of a crucial protest in parliament, where his party is also participating. (AP Photo/Alik Keplicz) © The Associated Press FILE - In this Oct. 20, 2015 file photo leader of the popular opposition party .Nowoczesna, Ryszard Petru, greets supporters after a televised parliamentary elections debate in Warsaw, Poland. Petru's party Modern is now facing questions about its credibility after he took a private foreign trip with a female party member at a time of a crucial protest in parliament, where his party is also participating. (AP Photo/Alik Keplicz)

WARSAW, Poland — The leader of Poland's key opposition party said Tuesday he showed poor judgment when he took a "private" foreign trip during a crucial protest in parliament, but insisted he was in steady touch with party colleagues.

The trip that Ryszard Petru took with a female member of his Modern party raised questions about the credibility of the pro-business party, as well as of his own image, at a time when Modern is the most popular party opposing the controversial policies of the ruling Law and Justice party.

Poland is in a political crisis, with opposition lawmakers — including from Modern — taking turns to occupy parliament since Dec. 16 to press for a change of course. They vow to continue until Jan.11 when parliament is to hold a session. Politicians are looking for solutions that could help end the protest and prevent parliament's work from being stalled. Obstruction of parliament would step up the political crisis.

Petru attended the protest during Christmas, but this week he was photographed with a fellow lawmaker on a plane going to Madeira. He is married and his companion is divorced. A spokeswoman for Modern has said the trip was on party business.

On his return Tuesday, Petru said the trip was an "ill-judged" private trip. He insisted he kept abreast of the developments and was a "cautious optimist" concerning the solution of the parliamentary conflict. He did not refer to his companion.

Earlier, political commentator Dominika Wielowieyska said it was a "disastrous mistake" for Petru's image at a time of a parliament crisis.

"You just don't do such things at such a moment. You just sit in Poland. Period," Wielowieyska said on Radio TOK FM.

Interior Minister Mariusz Blaszczak said Petru's holiday discredits him and the protest.

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