Poland’s ex-PM may run for MEP 'if needed'

Poland's former Prime Minister Beata Szydło. Photo: PAP/Wojciech Pacewicz

On Wednesday, former Prime Minister and current deputy PM Beata Szydło said she would run for MEP in May 2019 “if there is a will and need”, adding that she had already spoken with the ruling Law and Justice chairman about the matter.

Beata Szydło, who served as Poland’s Prime Minister in years 2015-2017, led the party to its spectacular election victory three years ago, allowing it to take the reins without having to seek for a coalition partner.

Best known for successfully implementing the government’s flagship 500+ welfare program which allows every family to claim PLN 500 (ca. EUR 115) every month for every second and subsequent child until the age of 18, Ms Szydło was subsequently replaced by the current PM Mateusz Morawiecki following the late 2017 government reshuffle.

Her departure as PM was unusual in that she was replaced while still enjoying substantial popularity, with no major scandal tarnishing her image save for a controversy involving major bonuses handed out to government ministers (including herself) which caused a significant uproar and ultimately led the party chairman to order all ministers to donate their bonuses to charity.

Despite the outrage surrounding the bonuses, many voters were surprised when the change of Prime Minister was finally announced. Commentators speculated that Mr Morawiecki, who had served as CEO of a major bank, was ultimately chosen to expedite economic reforms and bring in a more cosmopolitan flair to a government in urgent need of improving its international image – a role which Ms Szydło, although a crowd favorite in Poland, was not quite as well-equipped to fulfill.

When asked about her possible participation in the upcoming European elections in 2019 during an interview with a private broadcaster, Ms Szydło responded by saying that she was “ready to do this,” adding that she had already spoken about the matter with the party chairman Jarosław Kaczyński.

She also stressed that the upcoming European elections will be “very important for both Poland and the EU,” stressing the need for the Union to become a community which “unites instead of dividing”. In Ms Szydło’s view, the ruling conservatives have managed to prevent Poland from making the same mistakes as many Western European countries. In her view, this applies, in particular, to the issue of migration, which caused major trouble in Western Europe as uncontrolled influx of migrants found it hard to become integrated with their host societies.

Elections to the European Parliament will be held on May 23-16, 2019. Following the Brexit, the total number of MEPs will fall from 751 to 705, with the total number of Polish MEPs rising from 51 to 52. Poland’s ruling party attempted to amend the election rules in order to boost the winning chances of large parties at the expense of smaller ones, but following the presidential veto earlier this month, the election regulations will remain the same as during the previous ballot.