24th Jul 2021

Polish minority government faces baptism of fire

Poland has sworn in a new minority government with neutral experts in key posts, but the rightist Law and Justice party's links with populist eurosceptics could undermine its ability to rule.

Eight of the 17 cabinet posts have been filled by technocrats, with veteran diplomat Stefan Meller as new foreign minister, cardiologist Zbigniew Religa on health and sociologist Grazyna Gesicka on regional development.

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  • The rift could cause political paralysis (Photo: European Commission)

The Religa and Gesicka appointments are designed to mend relations with Civic Platform, since both openly supported the more liberal platform in recent elections.

Law and Justice loyalist Ludwik Dorn is the new interior minister, while party adherents also scooped the finance, economy, labour and agriculture jobs.

The new cabinet will present its programme on Thursday (3 November) and face a vote of confidence in the lower house on 10 November.

Civic Platform and Law and Justice, each holding about a quarter of seats in parliament, fell out last week after Law and Justice sided with the populist eurosceptic parties, Self-Defence and the League of Polish Families, to install its man as lower house speaker.

Rift deepens

"A parliamentary coalition of Law and Justice, Self-Defence and maybe the League of Polish Families is already at work supporting the minority government of [new prime minister] Marcinkiewicz. Civic Platform for obvious reasons will not take part in this", Civic Platform head Donald Tusk told Polish daily Rzeczpospolita on Wednesday.

The enmity between the two main parties will deepen if Law and Justice sides with the same allies in order to secure the confidence vote next week.

Self-Defence leader Andrzej Lepper has already signalled he would join up with Law and Justice if the party promises to renegotiate Poland's EU accession treaty, Gazeta Wyborcza writes.

Some analysts worry that a head-on collision between Law and Justice and Civic Platform will cause political paralysis at a time when Poland is playing for high stakes on the EU 2007-2013 budget and eurozone entry.

"I am 100 percent sure that it [Mr Marcinkiewicz's government] will not survive the full term", Warsaw university politics expert Kuba Krzysiak told Rzeczpospolita.

"We will probably witness frequent cabinet reshuffles and numerous parliamentary debates over government policy leading to a vote of no confidence", he added.

Meller in EU debut

Meanwhile, the new foreign minister, Stefan Meller, will represent Poland at Monday's meeting of EU foreign ministers in Brussels, where he is likely to ask for further EU action on Belarus.

Mr Meller is a 63-year old former ambassador to Paris and Moscow who speaks French, English, Russian and German.

He told the newsagency, PAP, his priority will be to preserve a rapport with Russia, Germany, the EU and US.

Polish president-elect Lech Kaczynski made provocative statements about Germany and Russia’s historic oppression of Poland in last month's election campaign.

As mayor of Warsaw, he also named a roundabout after the late Chechen separatist Djohar Dudajev.

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