President Andrzej Duda today swore in a new Polish government. However, it is likely to only be in place for two weeks at most, as it lacks a clear parliamentary majority following last month’s elections. It will then probably be replaced by a coalition formed of three opposition groups.
The unusual situation has arisen from the fact that Law and Justice (PiS), Poland’s ruling party since 2015, came first in the 15 October elections but lost its majority in the Sejm, the more powerful lower house of parliament.
Despite the fact that all other groups in parliament ruled out working with PiS, Duda – whose role as president is to nominate a prime minister tasked with forming a government – decided to stick with tradition and give the largest party the first opportunity to forge a new administration.
He picked PiS’s Mateusz Morawiecki – the sitting prime minister since 2017 – who has then appealed to opposition groups to join a government led by him. However, they rejected the idea.
Three opposition groups have rejected invitations from the PM for talks on forming a new government with the ruling PiS party.
The development increases the likelihood that the PM’s efforts will fail and an opposition coalition will instead take power https://t.co/2oNsBEYdxY
— Notes from Poland 🇵🇱 (@notesfrompoland) November 22, 2023
The cabinet named today by Morawiecki and sworn in by Duda is made up of a mix of politicians linked to PiS and smaller allied parties, as well as some figures presented as nonpartisan experts. Many are figures with little public profile.
“We are fulfilling a political, historical, constitutional custom by establishing, after the parliamentary elections, the government of the Republic of Poland, which is formed by the candidate presented by the party that won the parliamentary elections,” said Duda at today’s ceremony in the presidential palace.
“Mr Prime Minister, I congratulate you and I am very happy,” he added. “I look at the ministers present here with joy; I know most of you as experts in your fields…This is a time of great challenges that should be undertaken in an energetic and dynamic way.”
Dziś obejmujecie Państwo niezwykle odpowiedzialne polityczne funkcje prowadzenia polskich… pic.twitter.com/5D9MO6odWO
— Kancelaria Prezydenta (@prezydentpl) November 27, 2023
Some names came as a surprise. Over the weekend, the leader of one of PiS’s junior partners, Adam Bielan of The Republicans (Republikanie), said that the new administration would not contain “leading politicians” and would instead “consist mainly of experts”.
Likewise, on Saturday, the outgoing defence minister and deputy prime minister Mariusz Błaszczak said that he “will not be in the new government” because he is a “front-row politician and the new government will be constructed a little differently”.
However, this morning, in an interview with the Polish Press Agency (PAP), PiS chairman Jarosław Kaczyński revealed that in fact “Błaszczak may be included”. This afternoon it transpired that Błaszczak would, indeed, continue in his role as defence minister in the new government.
Mariusz Błaszczak: „Nie będę w nowym rządzie Mateusza Morawieckiego. Jestem politykiem z pierwszego szeregu PiS, a nowy rząd ma być skonstruowany trochę inaczej”.
Jarosław Kaczyński: „Akurat minister Błaszczak być może się w tym rządzie znajdzie”
— Wojtek Szacki (@szacki) November 27, 2023
Two other ministers from the outgoing government also remained in place: Marlena Maląg, the former families and social policy minister, now becomes head of the development and technology ministry; and Szymon Szynkowski vel Sęk moves from Europe minister to foreign minister.
A number of previous deputy ministers have also been promoted, with Marcin Wachoł becoming head of the justice ministry, Paweł Szefernaker promoted to interior minister, and Jacek Ozdoba, previously deputy climate minister, becoming a minister without portfolio.
Some other new ministers, such as Alvin Gajadhur (infrastructure), Dorota Bojemska (families and social policy) and Marzena Małek (state assets), previously served in state offices under the PiS government.
The new government now has two weeks to formulate a programme and present it to the Sejm, which will then hold a vote of confidence. If it wins that vote, it remains in office. If, as expected, it fails to gain a majority then the Sejm will present its own candidate for prime minister, likely to be Donald Tusk.
The opposition groups likely to form the next government have signed a coalition agreement
They pledged to:
– restore rule of law
– annul the near-total abortion ban
– depoliticise public media
– prosecute anti-LGBT hate speech
– separate church and state https://t.co/lwQvGGok8s
— Notes from Poland 🇵🇱 (@notesfrompoland) November 10, 2023
A leading PiS figure, Jacek Sasin, admitted today that “we are not naive, we know it will be extremely difficult to win a vote of confidence in this government”. But, he added, “that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try. We are the group that received the largest number of votes [in the elections]”.
Opposition figures, however, have said that the exercise is a waste of time and money.
“President Duda and Prime Minister Morawiecki are giving their people two months of well-paid holiday,” wrote MP Urszula Paslawska of the Polish People’s Party (PSL), referring to the salaries that will be paid to the newly appointed ministers.
Noting the low profile of many of the appointees, Krzysztof Gawkowski, head of The Left’s (Lewica) parliamentary caucus, said that “it is clear there were no volunteers and a roundup had to be organised”.
Polacy zagłosowali za zmianą na lepsze, nie za kiepskim, dwutygodniowym kabaretem. Szkoda czasu i szkoda Polski.
— Władysław Kosiniak-Kamysz (@KosiniakKamysz) November 27, 2023
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Main image credit: Przemysław Keler/KPRP
Daniel Tilles is editor-in-chief of Notes from Poland. He has written on Polish affairs for a wide range of publications, including Foreign Policy, POLITICO Europe, EUobserver and Dziennik Gazeta Prawna.