Poland’s prime minister fires deputy as ruling coalition crumbles

Junior partner Accord’s criticisms of tax reforms seem to have brought matters to a head within United Right coalition.

Jaroslaw Gowin, head of a junior coalition partner, said his dismissal was 'the de facto breaking up of the governing coalition and the de facto end of United Right' [File: Slawomir Kaminski/Agencja Gazeta via Reuters]

Poland’s prime minister has dismissed the head of a junior coalition partner from government, creating uncertainty about the future of an administration that has set Warsaw on a collision course with the European Union.

The United Right coalition has been strained during the past year, but junior partner Accord’s criticisms of tax reforms in the government’s flagship Polish Deal economic programme looked to have brought matters to a head.

“Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki today asked President Andrzej Duda to dismiss Jaroslaw Gowin from the posts of deputy prime minister and the minister of development, labour and technology,” government spokesman Piotr Muller told a news conference on Tuesday.

Duda’s spokesman told state news agency PAP that the prime minister’s wishes would be met and an announcement would be made in due course.

Muller said Morawiecki had made his decision mainly due to “insufficient progress” with the Polish Deal by the ministry headed by Gowin.

Last week, Morawiecki fired Deputy Minister of Development, Labour and Technology Anna Kornecka after she criticised the government’s tax reforms.

Morawiecki’s Law and Justice (PiS) party has said its reforms would leave the vast majority of tax payers better off, but Accord said they will punish the middle class and stoke inflation.

Accord has also said it opposes a draft amendment to the Broadcasting Act which critics have said is an attempt to silence an independent, US-owned television broadcaster critical of the government. Thousands of Poles protested against the bill on Tuesday.

Technically, the bill would prevent non-European owners from having controlling stakes in Polish media companies.

In practice, it would push American company Discovery Inc to sell its controlling stake in TVN, a network with many channels that operates the all-news station TVN24 and has a flagship evening news programme watched daily by millions.

At stake in the bill’s passage is Poland’s reputation for media freedom and as a place for foreign companies to do business. The proposal is already straining relations with the US, a key ally.

Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said Tuesday the law is not directed against anyone but seeks to protect Polish society, alleging that foreign entities are trying to influence Poland’s debate on COVID-19 vaccinations.

“It is through the media that other countries influence our social life,” he said at a news conference.

On Tuesday large crowds chanted “Free media!” in dozens of cities and towns in support of TVN.

In another sign of his differences with PiS, Gowin has said it would make “no sense” to get into conflict with the EU over the government’s judicial reforms.

“This dismissal is the de facto breaking up of the governing coalition and the de facto end of United Right,” he told reporters on Tuesday. The Accord leadership will make an official decision on its future on Wednesday.

Muller said the United Right may still be able to command a majority in Parliament even after Gowin’s dismissal as some Accord legislators would support the government’s reforms.

“I am convinced that there will be people in the United Right and in the rest of the Polish Parliament who will support the beneficial reforms that we have proposed,” he said.

Source: News Agencies