Analysis: Kaczynski warns satellite parties

Leader of the Law and Justice (PiS) has warned his partners in the ruling block, “Solidarity Poland” and “Agreement” that he is losing patience with them. This is because of the fact that they have been threatening to vote against measures such as the animal protection legislation and legislation to indemnify state officials for actions during the pandemic emergency.

At a hastily organised meeting of PiS MPs and Senators, Mr Kaczyński criticised both the junior parties and called them “ex-coalition partners”. He also warned members of his own party that he will not tolerate dissent on the animal welfare legislation and that those who disobey the party whip on the issue will have their party membership revoked.

The ruling party leader said that “the tale cannot wag the dog”. He was referring to dissent within the ranks of the ruling block coming from the “Agreement” party led by Jarosław Gowin and “Solidarity Poland” led by justice minister Zbigniew Ziobro.

The chair of the PiS Parliamentary Caucus Ryszard Terlecki said after the meeting that “if the situation demands it the reconstruction of the government will take place without them (Ziobro and Gowin’s parties - ed.). The negotiations over the restructuring of the government have been suspended as there is no sense in continuing them”.

According to unconfirmed reports both Br Ziobro’s and Mr Gowin’s parties intend to vote against the animal protection legislation that is so close to Mr Kaczyński’s heart. They argue that the legislation will hurt Polish farmers and business and that it gives too much power to animal welfare civil society organisations.

Negotiations within ruling block dragging out

Both Mr Kaczyński and Mr Terlecki have been sending signals in recent days that the core of the ruling block, the PiS party led by Mr Kaczyński, was increasingly irritated by the slow pace of negotiations over the restructuring of the government, legislative programme and places on future election slates of the PiS electoral alliance that has won the last six national elections contested since 2014.

Jarosław Kaczyński has demanded the down-sizing of the number of ministries, entailing both the junior partners losing one ministry each, and agreement over a legislative agenda. The two junior partners have however demanded guarantees of places on future election slates, have questioned the need for reducing the number of ministries and have been attempting for changes in the programme of the ruling coalition.

Mr Ziobro’s “Solidarity Poland” has been especially active with regard to arguing for a change in direction. It openly questioned PM Morawiecki and the deal he brought back from the Brussels summit, criticising him for failing to veto an agreement that in the end included agreement for rule of law compliance to be a factor in the disbursement of EU funds. And it argued for Poland to withdraw from the Istanbul convention on domestic violence because that agreement describes gender as a social rather than biological phenomenon.

Mr Ziobro’s party’s refusal to support legislation to indemnify government officials for their actions during the pandemic has led to PiS withdrawing the draft bill. They did so, as without Mr Ziobro’s party’s votes the measure would not have carried in the Lower House. “Agreement” were also unhappy with that measure.

PiS have now insisted that in order for the coalition talks to resume, both the satellite parties must agree to vote for the indemnity measure. “Solidarity Poland” are reluctant to do so as they see it as PiS protecting PM Mateusz Morawicki and former health minister Łukasz Szumowski from consequences of alleged breaches of the law. Mr Ziobro is not keen to help PM Morawiecki, with whom he is in conflict over the future direction of the PiS ruling block.

Mr Kaczyński has recently admitted that he has attempted to explore the possibility of forming a coalition with the Polish Coalition (KP) dominated by the Polish People’s Party (PSL). But he admitted that this did not produce any results.

He therefore needs both Mr Gowin and Mr Ziobro’s parties to be on board in order for PiS to enjoy a majority in parliament. Out of the 235 ruling party MPs in the 460 seat Lower house 18 come from Mr Gowin’s party and 20 from Mr Ziobro’s.

Mr Kaczyński’s demonstration on Thursday is aimed at getting speedy agreement from his junior partners. He knows that they would not be able to survive an election on their own. He does not want one either, but his party is in a better position for it than its junior partners.

His threat to move to a minority government is also not something he would like to be forced into doing. A minority government which had to negotiate every day to get its legislation through is not an enticing prospect. Mr Terlecki ruled it out saying that his party would, if necessary, face the electorate on its own.

It is doubtful however that PiS would want an election in the middle of the second wave of the pandemic. Calling such an election would be hard to justify to voters. It would be a hostage to fortune.

Rumours have been rife in the last few days that Mr Kaczyski himself may step in and become a Deputy PM or actual PM in the government. However any decision for Mr Kaczyński to become Deputy PM would weaken PM Morawiecki and any departure of Mr Morawiecki would be seen as a major victory for Mr Ziobro and his party.