Polish opposition groups sign agreement setting out programme for future coalition government

The three opposition groups that are likely to form Poland’s next government – the centrist Civic Platform (KO), centre-right Third Way (Trzecia Droga) and The Left (Lewica) – today signed and published their coalition agreement.

Among the pledges made by trio are reversing the current Law and Justice (PiS) government’s judicial reforms and unlocking frozen EU funds, overturning the near-total ban on abortion, depoliticising public media, making anti-LGBT hate speech a crime, and separating church and state.

Zapoznaj się z Umową Koalicyjną! https://t.co/u15qqq2XiL pic.twitter.com/1BL8IZIfZh

— PlatformaObywatelska (@Platforma_org) November 10, 2023

At last month’s elections, PiS came first but lost its parliamentary majority. KO, Third Way and The Left, meanwhile, won a combined majority and declared their willingness to form a coalition government led by Donald Tusk.

They will, however, have to wait some time to be able to do so, after President Andrzej Duda – whose role after elections is to nominate a candidate for prime minister – chose to give PiS, his former party, the first opportunity to form a government.

Today, the opposition groups unveiled what they described as “the first publically disclosed coalition agreement in Poland’s history” and also revealed who they would put forward to be speakers of the Sejm and Senate, the two houses of parliament.

President Duda has announced that he will give the ruling PiS party the first chance to form a new government.

PiS lost its majority at last month’s elections and all other groups have ruled out working with it. But it insists it can create a government https://t.co/bR6lXdh6FL

— Notes from Poland 🇵🇱 (@notesfrompoland) November 6, 2023

The 24-point coalition agreement sets out the priorities for the proposed new government, though does not provide detailed plans for how they will be implemented.

The five leaders signing the agreement – Tusk of KO, Szymon Hołownia and Władysław Kosiniak-Kamysz of Third Way, and Włodzimierz Czarzasty and Robert Biedroń of The Left – said that specific solutions to the issues presented will be worked out in parliament.

Today, Together (Razem), one of the parties that stood in the elections as part of The Left, announced that it would not sign the agreement and become part of the government because it had not obtained guarantees of its policy priorities. But its MPs will still support the formation of the government.

The party’s leaders, Adrian Zandberg and Magdalena Biejat, told the Polish Press Agency (PAP) that the other groups had not agreed to their demands regarding decriminalisation of abortion, guaranteed spending levels on healthcare, science and housing, and strengthening trade unions, among others.

Rada Krajowa Lewicy Razem, po zapoznaniu się z wynikiem negocjacji programowych, upoważniła posłów Razem do głosu za wotum zaufania dla rządu. Rada podjęła także decyzję o tym, że Razem nie wejdzie do rządu.https://t.co/fauvbmzQCL

— Razem (@partiarazem) November 10, 2023

The coalition agreement includes a pledge to unwind PiS’s reforms of the Supreme Court and the National Judicial Council (KRS), the body responsible for nominating judges. The government’s overhaul of both those institutions has been found unlawful in a number of rulings by Polish and European courts.

The coalition partners also want to introduce pay rises for public sector workers, to ensure access to state-funded mental-healthcare treatment, and to “depoliticise” schools.

The agreement also includes “the annulment of the 2020 Constitutional Tribunal ruling” that outlawed almost all legal abortions in Poland and triggered months of mass protests.

Poland’s prime minister has admitted it was a “mistake” for the ruling party to push for the constitutional court to introduce a near-total abortion ban in 2020.

He claims “he has always been a supporter” of the abortion law that existed before the ruling https://t.co/QObza3Raxk

— Notes from Poland 🇵🇱 (@notesfrompoland) November 6, 2023

In addition, the coalition partners want to restore funding for in vitro fertilisation (IVF), which was removed by PiS; and to amend the penal code so that inciting hatred on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity (which are currently excluded from hate crime laws) can be prosecuted.

They also want to facilitate the construction of onshore wind farms, solar panels and biogas plants. To implement these plans, the coalition partners have committed to unblocking billions of euros in EU funds frozen due to Poland’s conflict with Brussels over the rule of law.

Additionally, they want to simplify the tax code, increase transparency of public finances, support business owners and farmers, and introduce “clear criteria” that will be used to appoint management of state companies.

Donald Tusk, who is likely to lead Poland’s next government, met today with @EU_Commission President @vonderleyen in Brussels.

Afterwards, he said that concrete steps to restore the rule of law must be taken before the EU releases Poland’s frozen funds https://t.co/Vhl56kZL3x

— Notes from Poland 🇵🇱 (@notesfrompoland) October 25, 2023

The trio also want to “depoliticise public media”, which have become a PiS mouthpiece, and the armed forces; to better separate the church from the state; and to increase the availability of housing and public transport.

They have pledged to “decentralise” the state by increasing the powers of regional authorities and to include non-governmental organisations in creating laws.

The agreement also stipulates “accounting for the pathologies and crimes of the previous government” without which, according to the coalition partners “there is not and cannot be a Poland that is just and respects the rule of law”.

A prominent figure from state TV admits they produced „worse propaganda” than under communism to support the ruling party’s election campaign.

But he thinks this „Stalinist logic” backfired and contributed to the negative outcome of the election for PiS https://t.co/8CsLIeVgNz

— Notes from Poland 🇵🇱 (@notesfrompoland) October 18, 2023

As well as confirming Tusk as their candidate for prime minister, the partners have named Kosiniak-Kamysz of Third Way and Krzysztof Gawkowski of The Left as future deputy prime ministers.

The speakership of the Sejm, the more powerful lower chamber, is to be held on a rotating basis by Hołownia in the first half of the parliamentary term and Czarzasty in the second. KO’s Malgorzata Kidawa-Błońska will be the candidate for speaker of the upper-house Senate.

In response to today’s announcement, current government spokesman Piotr Müller of PiS commented that it did not include some of the specific promises made by KO before the elections regarding taxes and pay rises for public sector employees.

Szybki rzut oka na podpisaną umowę i od razu pojawiają się pytania do @Platforma_org o ich złożone obietnice. Czy w 2024 zrealizujecie obiecane:
➡️ podwyższenie kwoty wolnej od podatku do wysokości 60 tysięcy złotych?
➡️ podwyżki dla nauczycieli w wysokości 30%?
▶️ podwyżki dla…

— Piotr Müller (@PiotrMuller) November 10, 2023

Notes from Poland is run by a small editorial team and published by an independent, non-profit foundation that is funded through donations from our readers. We cannot do what we do without your support.

Main image credit: Klub Lewica/Flickr (under public domain)

Alicja Ptak is senior editor at Notes from Poland and a multimedia journalist. She previously worked for Reuters.

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