Poland’s rumor mill has PM on her way out the door


WARSAW — The talk of political Warsaw is a government reshuffle.

What’s not clear is who would be kicked out (although the foreign minister’s name keeps cropping up), whether party leader Jarosław Kaczyński will take over from Prime Minister Beata Szydło, and, of course, whether it will happen at all.

Here what’s certain: Infighting within the ruling Law and Justice party (PiS) is feeding this rumor mill.

A pro-government weekly, Sieci Prawdy, on Monday published a satirical column that contained a tongue-in-cheek comment: “The Supreme Leader will become just a Prime Minister,” alluding to the powerful role Kaczyński plays in Polish politics.

It added that a reshuffle would likely take place in mid-November, on the second anniversary of the Szydło government taking office. It also named Foreign Minister Witold Waszczykowski as one of those certain to be replaced.

Jarosław Gowin, a deputy prime minister, confirmed in an interview on Monday with the state TVP news channel that a possible reshuffle could take place in November. But he refused to confirm or deny plans to change the prime minister.

Any reshuffle would come with PiS riding high in the polls — most put it on around 40 percent support.

He refused to rule out Waszczykowski being in line for dismissal, saying: “There are no ministers that should feel safe.”

But the foreign minister does appear to be in trouble, especially after the PiS parliamentary caucus said it would set up a commission to oversee nominations within his ministry. Such a step is unimaginable without Kaczyński’s approval.

Sieci Prawdy said Szydło was notorious for her refusal to take sides in disagreements between members of her Cabinet. “Ministers were getting mad and made pilgrimages to Kaczyński to beg him to nominate a [new] leader for the government,” the weekly said.

Szydło would head the PiS list of candidates for the 2019 European Parliament elections, Sieci Prawdy said — and has reportedly been taking intensive English lessons.

Any reshuffle would come with PiS riding high in the polls — most put it on around 40 percent support — with its nearest rival, Civic Platform (PO), at around 20 percent.

Yet PiS was shocked in July by President Andrzej Duda’s veto of laws that would have dismissed all Supreme Court judges and a council that nominates other judges.

That’s when a spat between Gowin and Justice Minister Zbigniew Ziobro surfaced. Gowin supported the president’s vetoes and attacked Ziobro’s attempt to assume personal control over the nomination of judges, which he had introduced into the laws that Duda vetoed. 

The level of support shown for the hitherto loyal Duda highlighted for the first time serious divisions in PiS.

PiS leader Jarosław Kaczyński and Prime Minister Beata Szydło | Janek Skarzynski/AFP via Getty Images

Duda’s powers as president include overall control over foreign affairs and defense policy. In both fields the relevant ministers had been trying to diminish Duda’s role.

Defense Minister Antoni Macierewicz’s refusal to inform Duda about his plans led the president to respond by refusing to support generals nominated by the defense ministry.

Kaczyński, who backs Macierewicz in the spat, may try to solve the problem by giving Duda final powers over foreign policy matters, but not over defense, according to two party sources familiar with the matter.

Sieci Prawdy said Krzysztof Szczerski, the head of the presidential cabinet, would take the foreign affairs portfolio in the reshuffle.

“Lets wait until more or less November 16th. This is when Ms Prime Minister and Mr Chairman Kaczyński will announce the changes,” said Gowin, adding “if they are to happen at all.”

Source: Politico

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