Poland between the old and new government (13-19 November 2023)
The new parliament gathers for the first time, Mateusz Morawiecki chooses to accept a seemingly impossible mission to form a new government, and the celebrity marshal Szymon Hołownia is praised for his performance. In the meantime Donald Tusk shies away from the public eye, focusing not only on recruiting members of his future cabinet, but also on resetting the relationship with the European Union.
In just two days Law and Justice had to come to terms with the scale of its political defeat. While the party received the most votes among all the committees, it antagonised other parties and now faces years of isolation. It was proved during the first important votes in the parliament on 13 and 14 November. Law and Justice candidates for deputy marshals of Sejm and Senate were rejected by other parties. Elżbieta Witek, who was the marshal during the previous term, over the last few years was accused by the opposition of violating the constitution and breaking the parliamentary protocol. It was no surprise that she did not receive support from the new majority, even though customarily every parliamentary club in the past received one deputy marshal seat. After Witek was rejected, Law and Justice refused to designate another person for the position.
The newly elected marshal Szymon Hołownia, the leader of Poland 2050 party who first received fame as a host of the Polish version of “Got Talent” TV show, has been praised for a smooth and efficient performance in his new role. According to the coalition agreement, he will be replaced in two years by the Left’s Włodzimierz Czarzasty. Hołownia is expected to use his position to elevate his status before the 2025 presidential elections.
Fourteen days for Morawiecki
Current president Andrzej Duda, speaking at the Sejm’s opening session, called on all parties to join “a coalition of the Polish interests”. While declaring his willingness to collaborate wit the parliament, he also warned that he will not restrain himself from using his veto power – which, as he argued, should not be an excuse for the new government to not fulfil its campaign promises. Although the president designated Mateusz Morawiecki as a candidate for the prime minister, the warning was widely interpreted as addressed to the current opposition.
Before being designated, Morawiecki had to submit his formal resignation. In his last speech in the parliament, he attacked the European Union and warned it may endanger Poland’s sovereignty. The speech was perceived as a part of rhetorical reorientation of Law and Justice for the next few years in the opposition. Although afterwards Morawiecki visited the president and received a mission to form the government within the next 14 days, members of his own party do not believe in his success.
The most symbolic situation of Law and Justice inevitable loss of power was perhaps a short exchange in parliament between Jarosław Kaczyński and Szymon Hołownia on Tuesday, 14 November. It took place during the votes on the new members of National Council of the Judiciary, an institution that is responsible for nominating judges and safeguard the independence of the courts. The council was reformed by Law and Justice in 2017, allowing parliament to nominate its members. The move led to the council being dominated by Law and Justice nominees which, in turn, led to the critical reaction from the European Union. The conflict over the judiciary and the rule of law was one of the main reasons for the EU to withhold its funding for Poland. On Tuesday, the parliament majority nominated new council members from the Left, Third Way, and Civic Coalition, rejecting Law and Justice candidates. Jarosław Kaczyński, who was Morawiecki’s deputy in the outgoing government, raised from his seat and approached the marshal chair, reportedly asking Hołownia to allow him to speak, saying “I am the prime minister”. Hołownia refused, saying that all the ministers on his list have already spoken. Kaczyński eventually returned to his seat.
Tusk is waiting
Donald Tusk who actively campaigned before the election and who dutifully attended the first session of the parliament, remained silent over the next few days. His reluctance to engage was reportedly caused by the fact that he do not want to publicly speculate about the future composition of his government. The coalition agreement signed more than a week ago do not specify the names of new ministers and the details of the first moves of Tusk government are still discussed among the coalition partners.
But not only Poland is waiting for the new Polish government. Donald Tusk, who visited Brussels shortly after the election, hoped that the EU will shortly release the the withheld funding. Now it seems that the European Commission will not change its decisions unless the new government will actually restore the legislation that ensures the rule of law. Considering the possible resistance from the president Duda, Tusk must, for the time being, manage his expectations.
Photo by Kancelaria Sejmu.
The views and perspectives expressed in this post are solely those of the author.