Wojciech Kość in Warsaw -
The Law and Justice (PiS) party, which won an outright majority in the Polish parliamentary elections held on October 25, is expected to announce its government line-up early this week, before the first sitting of the new parliament on November 12.
The new government has long been expected to be headed by PiS’ deputy chair Beata Szydlo, even if she disappeared briefly from public view after the victorious election, fuelling speculation that the party’s founder and chairman Jaroslaw Kaczynski might be considering a different candidate.
PiS has been quick to re-emphasise that Szydlo would be the prime minister and PiS’ officials have been saying in unison for the past few days that it will be for her to make the final decisions on the government’s line-up.
The ministerial names circulating have long been high up in the hierarchy of PiS and its satellites Polska Razem (Poland Together) and Solidarna Polska (Solidary Poland), although they may have been forgotten outside of Poland during the eight-year rule of Civic Platform (PO). Some of those names appear to have been deliberately kept out of the public eye during the campaign as being too divisive and potentially detrimental to PiS’ election result.
Perhaps the most divisive figure is Antoni Macierewicz, who appears to be in the driving seat to become Poland’s new defence minister. While in opposition, Macierewicz gained notoriety for pushing the theory that the 2010 plane crash over the Russian town of Smolensk that killed then president Lech Kaczynski – Jaroslaw’s twin brother – was an assassination carried out by planting a bomb.
Other than that, Macierewicz’s has long had a penchant for tracking communist-era spies in Poland’s military with an exceptional zeal. With a background as an anti-communist activist in the 1970s, Macierewicz is one of those in PiS convinced that Poland is far from having shed the legacy of communist times.
As deputy minister of defence during PiS’ short stint in power in 2005-2007, he put his beliefs to work as head of the military intelligence WSI, which he liquidated, harming Poland’s military intelligence effort abroad, according to critics.
A strongly polarising figure, Macierewicz is considered the strong man guaranteeing Poland’s firm course on Russia by the rightwing camp, while left-liberal opinion sees him as the man Russia can easily manipulate to destabilise Poland. “No one knows what [Macierewicz as defence minister] will lead to,” newspaper Rzeczpospolita speculated on November 3.
Whatever Macierewicz may blunder into to damage Poland’s relationships with neighbours, it will be likely be up to Witold Waszczykowski to fix as foreign minister. Waszczykowski is seen as staunchly pro-US politician. A former deputy foreign minister in the PiS government in 2005-2007, Waszczykowski thinks Polish diplomacy “finally must start executing Polish national and security interests”, as he put it in an interview for newspaper Rzeczpospolita on November 2.
Another divisive name in the possible government line-up is Zbigniew Ziobro, currently tipped as a future minister of justice. Ziobro is the leader of Solidary Poland, with which he broke away from PiS in 2012, only to be re-admitted to Kaczynski’s circle two years later. His nomination is seen as concession that PiS will make in order to retain unity. Ziobro was justice minister in the PiS cabinet of 2005-2007, when he was widely accused of politicising the judiciary. His critics now say he will attempt to do the same again.
Mariusz Kaminski, former head of the anti-corruption police CBA, is tipped to be the so-called coordinator of special services. Kaminski was sentenced to three years in prison in March for his role in orchestrating a covert operation carried out in the Ministry of Agriculture in 2007. The court decided CBA agents had led two ministry officials into taking a bribe for changing the permit on a piece of land.
“It’s a clear signal: in Poland, corruption is not a crime. Fighting corruption is a crime,” PiS chairman Kaczynski reacted to the court’s verdict in March, in a clear indication Kaminski is seen as the right person to fight corruption in the PiS government.
Other names circulating around Warsaw appear less divisive. Dawid Jackiewicz is currently tipped to be the new treasury minister, to oversee many of the ailing or troublesome state-controlled companies such as the flag carrier Lot, the power utilities, or – last but not least – the coal miners such as Kompania Weglowa, still teetering on the edge of bankruptcy.
Jackiewicz’s portfolio might however be thinned somehow should PiS create a new ministry of energy, with Piotr Naimski speculated to stand at the helm. “We are considering merging energy companies with coal mining companies, but a decision will come after we have learned all details,” Naimski told industry news website wnp.pl on October 27. “The state can be as good an owner as a private entity. There is no reason for the dogma of private ownership to dominate in Poland,” he also said.
While these ministers are so far just speculation, there is one person in the upcoming government who appears certain to have a lot of power and – which is worrying – will not bear any responsibility. Jaroslaw Kaczynski, former premier and current chairman of PiS, is expected to control key decisions from his pre-war villa in Warsaw’s expensive district of Zoliborz.
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