WARSAW (Reuters) - Andrzej Lepper, a former Polish deputy prime minister and leader of the small, populist Self-Defense Party, died on Friday, police said, and local media said he may have committed suicide.
Lepper, 57, was known for his nationalist rhetoric and had been involved in a series of scandals but his party lost all its parliamentary seats in the 2007 national election and was not expected to win any in the next poll due in October.
“I can confirm that this death has occurred. Police procedures are now being carried out,” a police spokeswoman told Reuters. She gave no further details.
Public news broadcaster, quoting police sources, said Lepper may have committed suicide. His body was found at the party’s office in Warsaw.
Lepper, a former farmer, had faced several criminal charges for acts of civil disobedience such as dumping grain on railway tracks, for slandering ministers and for sexual harassment.
Last year, a judge found him guilty of demanding sexual favors from female members of his party and handed him a jail sentence against which he appealed.
Self-Defense was a junior coalition partner of Jaroslaw Kaczynski’s right-wing Law and Justice Party in the 2006-2007 government and Lepper served in it as both deputy prime minister and as agriculture minister.
Lepper’s party, known as Samoobrona in Polish, mainly enjoyed the support of poor rural Poles who felt excluded from Poland’s strong economic growth since it joined the European Union in 2004.
Poland holds a parliamentary election on October 9 and Prime Minister Donald Tusk’s centrist, pro-EU Civic Platform (PO) is expected to win a second four-year term of office.
Reporting by Dagmara Leszkowicz, editing by Gareth Jones