Poland Powerbroker Kaczynski Joins Gov’t as Deputy PM

The leader of the Polish ruling party, Jaroslaw Kaczynski,center, speaks to reporters in Warsaw on Saturday. (AP Photo/Czarek Sokolowski)

WARSAW, Poland (AFP) — Jaroslaw Kaczynski, the powerful leader of Poland’s dominant right-wing Law and Justice (PiS) party, will formally join the coalition government it leads, the prime minister said Wednesday.

An MP who has long been considered Poland’s de facto leader, Kaczynski, 71, will serve as a deputy prime minister, PiS Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki told reporters in Warsaw without elaborating on his portfolio.

A reshuffle agreement sealed on Saturday between the PiS and its two junior coalition partners brings Kaczynski into the United Right coalition government for the first time since it first took office in 2015.

Local media reported that Kaczynski will oversee the justice, internal affairs and defense portfolios and that the number of ministries will be cut from 20 to 14.

Announcing the changes, Morawiecki said they are intended to improve decision-making as Poland faces the “enormous challenge” of dealing with the economic fallout of the coronavirus pandemic.

Commentators in Warsaw however see Kaczynski’s formal inclusion in the government as a measure intended to discipline junior coalition partners and to defuse their tensions with Morawiecki. 

Kaczynski’s arrival may also signal fresh tensions with the European Union over the rule of law, they suggest.

Since winning office in 2015, the PiS has pushed through a string of controversial judicial reforms that have put Poland at loggerheads with the European Union over concerns the changes undermine the rule of law.

The EU on Wednesday criticized Poland and Hungary in a report on democratic standards across the bloc.

The European Parliament and several member states want to see funding for countries like Poland tied to respect for democratic legal values.

Accused of a slide into populist authoritarianism, Warsaw and Budapest fiercely oppose this and, along with Budapest, Poland has threatened to veto Europe’s coronavirus recovery plan.

The PiS-led coalition government won its second consecutive four-year term in October 2019 on the back of a raft of welfare measures coupled with attacks on LGBT rights and Western values. 

The new education minister, Przemyslaw Czarnek, has drawn heavy criticism from opposition politicians for homophobic comments suggesting that LGBT pride parades were “deviant” and “depraved”.

The PiS risked leading a minority government or snap elections after coalition MPs broke ranks last week over the adoption of a controversial animal rights bill.

PiS-allied President Andrzej Duda is expected to approve the new cabinet line-up in the coming weeks.


© Agence France-Presse

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