Polish Coalition May Collapse Over EU Plan, Kaczynski Warns
(Bloomberg) -- Poland’s ruling coalition won’t finish its full term in power unless its three factions all agree to approve the European Union’s stimulus plan, the head of the government-leading party said.
Jaroslaw Kaczynski’s Law & Justice Party is at odds with one of its partners over the EU’s 750 billion euro ($890 billion) pandemic relief package. While the chances are slim that Poland won’t pass the deal -- which requires the ratification of all member states to enter into force -- the dispute has underscored divisions in the ruling alliance that have been intensifying since it won re-election in 2019.
Junior coalition member United Poland opposes the EU package because its leader, Zbigniew Ziobro, says it allows the bloc to issue its own debt and it’s not in Poland’s interest to co-sign liabilities for countries with weaker economies.
With the coalition commanding only a slim majority in parliament, Kaczynski needs votes from Ziobro or opposition parties that are demanding local governments get more control over spending to pass the package. In an interview published in the Gazeta Polska daily on Wednesday, Kaczynski called for his pro-EU rivals to help approve the stimulus.
Early elections are also unlikely because there’s too much at stake for coalition parties, according to Warsaw University political scientist Renata Mienkowska-Norkiene. With the nation of 38 million mired in a resurgence of the virus and the economic damage it has wrought, opinion polls show a united opposition could win a majority if elections were held now.
“Kaczynski is afraid of an early vote, and he’ll do anything to avoid it,” Mienkowska-Norkiene said by phone on Wednesday. “He’s just sending warning signals to his partners to make them aware of how much they could lose.”
Each EU country must prepare a plan to use the EU funds, which in Poland’s case amount to 58.1 billion euros, by the end of this month. Poland’s parliament meets on April 14.
Mienkowska-Norkiene said that even a United Poland vote against the EU plan won’t end the coalition, while there should be enough members of the opposition parties to support the stimulus.
An end of March survey by Centrum Badań Marketingowych Indicator gave Law & Justice a lead of 26.1%, with major opposition parties combining for 47% of votes. If it were to run separately, Ziobro’s United Poland would make it into the parliament with 5.2% support.
Kaczynski said he didn’t rule out early elections in 2022 -- a year before the government’s term ends -- but doesn’t think that will happen, the newspaper reported.
His party has continually wrangled with United Poland and the other coalition party, Porozumienie, over Poland’s approach to the EU, taxes, and last year’s pandemic-delayed presidential election.
Porozumienie’s leader, Deputy Prime Minister Jaroslaw Gowin, said Wednesday that a snap vote next year is possible if the coalition can’t reach an agreement on its various areas of dispute.
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