Warsaw (dpa) – Poland’s national-conservative PiS government has long been in crisis. But then it hit hard.
News channel TVN24 was broadcasting live coverage of nationwide protests against a controversial new broadcasting law on Tuesday evening when the image for the government spokesman’s press conference suddenly flipped into a shaky switch. He announced that Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki had fired his deputy Jaroslaw Gowin. Moments later, Gowin objected that this marked the end of the collaboration between his group Porozumenie (understanding) and the PiS. That made the government crisis perfect.
Now there are signs of a PiS-led minority government in Germany’s neighbor. A showdown could already take place on Wednesday evening: the PiS wants to vote in parliament on the broadcasting law that caused the rift in the government camp. The question is whether they can get a majority together.
With its ongoing dispute with the EU, anti-German tone and public opinion against sexual minorities, the PiS government appears to the outside world as if it can barely walk with force. She has ruled the country with an absolute majority since 2015. PiS boss Jaroslaw Kaczynski, also deputy prime minister, is considered a strong man in Polish politics.
So far, PiS has formed a list alliance
But what looks like a monolithic bloc from the outside is, on closer inspection, a complex political construct. Until now, the PiS has formed an alliance with two small parties trading under the name “United Rights”, but since the PiS formed a joint parliamentary group. The Porozumenie led by Jaroslaw Gowin was represented there by 12 of the 232 members. The second small party, Solidarity Poland led by Justice Minister Zbigniew Ziobro, has 19 MPs.
While Ziobro profiled himself as a Eurosceptic hardliner and dragged the government alliance to the right, Gowin aimed for a moderate, more Christian-Democratic course. Kaczynski worked somewhere in between.
Tensions in the government camp have risen in recent weeks. Gowin has not spared criticism of a prestigious PiS project: the multibillion-dollar “Polish Order” economic stimulus program, which includes the modernization of infrastructure and the health system and aims to create incentives for families.
The PiS wants to ask the middle class and entrepreneurs to pay for it with hefty tax increases – Gowin is lying across the board. He and his MPs had not worked on the reforms with the necessary speed, was the official reason for his resignation.
But Gowin also opposed a controversial planned change to the broadcasting law. In the future, broadcasting licenses should only be issued to foreigners if they “have their head office or residence in the European Economic Area”.
Station with a party critical line
According to critics, the law focuses on the private broadcaster TVN, which is part of the American group Discovery through a holding company registered in the Netherlands. The news channel TVN24 in particular takes a critical line about the PiS. Discovery may be forced to sell its shares.
Now the parliament has to vote on the amendment of the law. It is unclear whether the PiS will get the necessary votes for this. Party spokesman Radoslaw Fogiel was optimistic: “When it comes to the majority in the Sejm, I am reassured.”
PiS boss Kaczynski had gained support for political projects some time ago through an agreement with the right-wing protest party Kukiz 15. The 16 Kukiz MPs could provide the majority in this case.
It’s also questionable whether Kaczynski will be able to get some of the Gowin people back on board. The dead deputy head of government only said that his party had already made a decision. “Now the individual people will have to make their decision based on their conscience.”