Polish parliament meets 1st time since populists reelected

November 12, 2019 - 4:13 am

WARSAW, Poland (AP) — Poland's newly elected parliament is inaugurating its four-year term with a ceremonial sitting Tuesday, after elections last month gave a second term to the populist conservative Law and Justice party.

Though Law and Justice won the most votes, the result also created some new complications for the party and its 70-year-old leader, Jaroslaw Kacyznski, as it continues its ambitious plans to reshape the nation.

For one, a new far-right party, Confederation, got almost 7% of the vote and enters parliament for the first time with 11 lawmakers.

Law and Justice had been pursuing a strategy to prevent any party arising in parliament to its right. That strategy had led Kaczynski and other leaders to try to appeal to the far right, and they even marched with them on Independence Day in 2018, something that has clearly backfired.

Also, while the party captured a slim majority in the 460-seat lower house, or Sejm, it lost control of the Senate, where opposition lawmakers now have 51 of the 100 seats. The Senate is much less powerful than the Sejm but appoints the heads of some key state bodies and can slow down legislation.

Law and Justice has reportedly been trying to win over opposition members in the Senate but has not yet managed to persuade any to switch sides.

In another change, a left-wing alliance will have representation in parliament after a hiatus of four years after getting nearly 13% of votes.

On Tuesday, the lawmakers in the Sejm will take their oaths before electing the speaker and deputy speakers. President Andrzej Duda will deliver a speech, and Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki's outgoing government will resign.

Morawiecki has been tapped to be prime minister again with a Cabinet that keeps many of the same ministers in place, with just a few changes.

The sitting will be opened by Antoni Macierewicz, a senior lawmaker and former defense minister.

While the role is largely honorary and symbolic, the choice of Macierewicz has been controversial. His critics fault him with revealing in 2006 the identity of dozens of current and former agents for military intelligence, some of whom were serving at the time in sensitive places like Afghanistan and were forced to return to Warsaw. The aim was to purge the system of those with ties to the Kremlin, but it is highly unusual for a country to reveal the identities of its own spies and the move was harshly criticized.

Macierewicz was also the leading proponent of a theory that the plane crash in Russia in 2010 that killed President Lech Kaczynski and 95 others was not an accident, as an official investigation had determined. He had suggested Russian involvement, something never proven and considered by many to be a conspiracy theory.

Duda said he tapped the 71-year-old Macierewicz in recognition of his senior status and anti-regime activism under communism, which ended 30 years ago.

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