Poland’s opposition parties reach coalition agreement

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Poland’s three largest opposition parties signed a coalition agreement Friday laying out the fundamentals of the next government after the incumbent Law and Justice (PiS) party lost its parliamentary majority in the election last month.

The three parties in the coalition agreement are Civic Coalition, led by Donald Tusk; the Third Way, itself a grouping of the Poland 2050 party and the Polish People’s Party (PSL); and the Left.

According to the text of the agreement, the coalition will prioritize security “in the face of an unprecedented threat caused by the Russian aggression against Ukraine.” The coalition also will work to restore rule of law, address the climate crisis, and improve Poland’s track record on women’s rights, according to the agreement. The group also will focus on education, health care, and combating hate speech.

The opposition parties have to wait before taking power, as Polish President Andrzej Duda, a PiS loyalist, has given outgoing Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki the first crack at trying to form a new government. While there is little chance of that being successful, Morawiecki has several weeks to make the effort.

Duda ignored an appeal by the three opposition parties, which together control a majority of parliamentary seats, saying they will form a government with Tusk as the new leader. Tusk was prime minister from 2007-2014, before serving as president of the European Council for five years.

The opposition parties’ coalition pledges are an indictment of the past eight years of PiS rule and the new government also promised to hold the PiS government to account. “Without holding the pathology and crimes of the previous government accountable, there will not be a just and rule-of-law Poland,” the agreement said.

The coalition also pledged to work on a “predictable tax system,” transparent government finances, de-politicization of public media, improving access to housing and implementing an improved social safety net, according to the text.

While the three parties trying to form the next government are united in their aversion for PiS, they have big differences on issues like abortion, LGBTQ+ rights and energy policy. The Third Way’s opposition to liberalizing stringent abortion laws in Poland led to that issue being left out of the coalition agreement.

A small part of the Left, the Razem (Together) party, said that while it will support the government in the confidence vote expected in December, it won’t formally join the administration because issues like abortion were not included explicitly in the coalition agreement.

Morawiecki has 194-strong PiS caucus behind him the parliament, 37 seats short of a majority, which he said he would try building. He has four weeks for that starting November 13, the date of the inaugural sitting of the new parliament.

The opposition coalition has a comfortable majority of 248 seats in 460-seat parliament. Its representatives lambasted Duda for designating Morawiecki, saying the move is “playing for time to Poland’s harm.”

Some early decisions on the coalition’s prospective lineup have already been made. PSL leader Władysław Kosiniak-Kamysz is designated to become “first deputy prime minister” and the Left’s Krzysztof Gawkowski is tapped as a deputy prime minister.

The important position of the parliamentary speaker would go to Poland 2050 leader Szymon Hołownia for the first two years of the new parliament’s term. The Left’s Włodzimierz Czarzasty would then take over.