On the road to coalition (27 October-3 November 2023)
Written by Filip Bialy
Two weeks after the election, the opposition parties are attempting to finalise their coalition agreement, Law and Justice is pretending to be in denial of the basic parliamentary arithmetic, and the president is enjoying a rare moment in the spotlight.
1 November, All Saints’ Day, is a national holiday in Poland. The country comes to a halt for a few days before and after that day, and it appeared that the same was happening in the post-election political debate. However, appearances can be deceptive. While millions of Poles were traveling to visit their relatives’ graves, politicians continued to shape a new status quo behind closed doors.
President Andrzej Duda is at the centre of attention, as it is his decision to designate the new prime minister after the parliament meets for the first session on 13 November. The decisive factor will be whether the current opposition will be able to elect their own marshal of the Sejm. If that happens, it will be a clear sign that Law and Justice failed to convince opposition deputies to support their government. But even then, the president will most likely designate Mateusz Morawiecki as the prime minister to give the current government enough time to regroup before Law and Justice transitions from the government to the opposition.
Mateusz Morawiecki still maintains he is not going anywhere. “I have not packed,” he said to the press, claiming he believes it will be possible to gather the necessary support from parties other than the Civic Coalition. Law and Justice needs 37 additional votes, which means that even if the Confederacy decides to support the new-old government (and it may not be the case, as the leaders of the party announced that they want to keep an equal distance from both Law and Justice and Civic Coalition), Morawiecki must find almost 20 more votes. The efforts seem to be focused on the Polish People’s Party deputies, which could be at least in part motivated by the fact that, historically speaking, Polish People’s Party was very pragmatic in its alliances. In the last 30 years, it was a part of both left-wing and centre-right governing coalitions.
But Morawiecki is likely to be disappointed as, after more than a week of intense talks, the opposition parties seem to have reached at least a preliminary agreement regarding the distribution of government positions. The talks started on Friday, 27 October, and continued the following Monday and then after All Saints’ Day. By the weekend of 3 November, the appointments for the main ministerial posts seemed to be decided. The Polish People’s Party leader Władysław Kosiniak-Kamysz will be Donald Tusk’s deputy prime minister and the minister of defence. The second deputy prime minister will be the Left’s Krzysztof Gawkowski, who will also be a minister for digitalisation. Civic Coalition will retain some of the most important ministries: internal affairs, national assets, finances, health, and culture. Polish People’s Party is expected to get ministries of infrastructure and agriculture, while their Third Way partner, Poland 2050, will be given ministries of climate and foreign affairs. The Left will get the ministry of social affairs.
One of the central and still unresolved points of contention is the marshal position. To satisfy the demands of all coalition partners, an idea of a rotating marshal was proposed. According to the idea, for the first two years, the position would be given to Szymon Hołownia (Poland 2050/Third Way), and then to Włodzimierz Czarzasty (Left). Third Way’s politicians appear to be sceptical of this proposal, indicating it would mean giving too much to the weakest of the three coalition partners, the Left.
It is unlikely that all the issues will be resolved by the first session of the parliament. Apart from the government positions, the future coalition disagrees on ideological issues. The Left is pushing to include abortion and same-sex unions in the agreement, while other parties reject such ideas. The detailed negotiations will probably continue at least until mid-December when the opposition parties will have their chance to designate the prime minister.