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  1. The Staggers
7 November 2023

Poland’s nationalists won’t go quietly

Law and Justice have no clear path to government, but that won’t stop them from trying.

By Wolfgang Münchau

Andrzej Duda, the Polish president, stuck to protocol and on Monday (6 November) gave the first mandate to form a government to the current prime minister, Mateusz Morawiecki, and his Law and Justice party (PiS). It seems a hopeless endeavour, and a waste of time for the opposition.

PiS did indeed come first in elections in October, but with 194 seats, it needs another 37 to ensure a majority. No other party is volunteering to step forward for this role. By contrast the three main opposition groups have declared their desire to form a government together, and have a comfortable majority of 248 seats in the 460 seat assembly.

Still, PiS won’t give up, and Duda, a PiS loyalist, will not deprive the party of its chance. Morawiecki even offered to step aside and serve in a government led by Wladyslaw Kosiniak-Kamysz, leader of the centre-right Polish People’s Party (PSL). But the PSL is determined to stick to its Third Way group and its commitment to form a government with Donald Tusk’s Civic Coalition and the left-wing Lewica. Even in a hypothetical case where all PSL MPs join up with PiS, PiS and the PSL together would still be short of a majority.

Morawiecki has to present a cabinet within two weeks after the new parliament’s first session on 13 November. He then has another two weeks to present his programme and hold a confidence vote. If Morawiecki fails, parliament gets the initiative and proposes its own candidate, which will be almost certainly be Tusk. Duda also indicated that if it were to come to this, he would accept parliament’s proposed government.

For Tusk, governing with a president who has the power to veto legislation won’t be easy, and ridding state institutions and state-affiliated companies of PiS loyalists will not be a smooth process. But the mandate is little more than a band aid for PiS. Its time in government is ending after eight years – a few more days won’t make a difference.

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[See also: The slipperiness of ceasefire]

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