Saturday, January 07, 2006

Two Polish ministers bite the dust

It’s only a couple of months old but already the minority Law and Justice (PiS) government has lost two members of its cabinet.

Teresa Lubinska will be a very small footnote in the political history of Poland.

She 'resigned' today as Minister of Finance and will now slip back into the obscurity from which she only recently came. She is to be replaced by Zyta Gilowska (pictured above), once a prominent member of the opposition and free market orientated Civic Platform: she will also take the title of Deputy Prime Minister.

It must be one of the shortest periods in the office of a finance minister in the history of finance ministers. Only days into the job she scared the life out of foreign investors when she declared that she never shopped at Tesco’s, or any other foreign supermarket for that matter, and these retail giant were not making ‘productive investments in Poland’.

She had told a magazine that she had ‘waited her whole life to be Finance Minister’. Shame then that her life’s ambition came and went in just a couple of months.

Lubinska’s resignation comes only days after Treasury Minister, Andrzej Mikosz, announced that he 'wanted to spend more time with his wife' and resigned after Rzeczpospolita daily exposed a 300,000 zloty loan Mrs. Mikosz made to someone who is currently on trial for insider dealing at the Warsaw Stock Exchange.

PiS had campaigned in last autumn’s election on a ticket of fighting corruption, and honesty and transparency in public life.

The government – which has to rely on votes from the far-right League of Polish Families (LPR) and left wing populist, radical farmer’s union Samoobrona (SO) to get their proposed budget through parliament next week - is desperately trying to appear stable, in control and with a sense of direction.

But it has already lost crucial votes in the Sejm (parliament). Last week it had to bend to the will of LPR and SO when trying to get its rather bizarre plan to increase the birth rate in Poland – its ‘cash for babies’ legislation - through parliament. PiS wanted to give a one-off payment of 1000 zloty (not much more than 350 dollars) to mothers in low and middle income brackets who manage to produce a baby. SO and LPR demanded that every mother, regardless of income, get the 350 dollars per baby – and they won.

The price of getting the budget through parliament could be high and ultimately self destructive for PiS. Andrzej Lepper, leader of Sammobrona, is demanding a place in the cabinet, and Roman Giertych, leader of the catholic-nationalist LPR wants the important position of Speaker of the House.

Lepper said on Wednesday that the government has three choices: a coalition that includes Samoobrona; a coalition with the opposition Civic Platform; or a general election in April.

The next few days in Warsaw will be accompanied by the sound of much arm twisting and the licking of various politicians' backsides (in Poland they call this process 'applying the vaseline').


Gustav said...

Good riddance.

Perhaps this is a harbinger of the early breakup of the PiS gov't you and Becca believe will happen? - I hope so.

Can we expect you at p3 tonight beatroot?

beatroot said...

p3 - for those who don't know what we are talking about - is a radical collective of bloggers who meet on saturdays in Warsaw and discuss the vital issues of the day...and then Gustav buys the drinks!

See you for a drink Mr G

On the government - there is a small possibility that Civic Platform will yet join a coalition. That's the reason for dumping Lubinska and bringing in a leading ex-Civic Platform like Gilowska (who left the party under a cloud a while ago.

Now they have to get the budget draft through - tricky as already PiS have promised to try and get deficit down, but already they are saddled with expensive (and merely populist) social legislation that won't work anyway (Cash for babies) and they have to try and convince Platform that they are serious about privatisation and many other measures where they differ.

Samoobrona and League will be pulling the oppostite way - so PiS have got stuck in the middle and are in a bit of a muddle. If the budget does get through then there will be many more issues where PiS\are going to be blackmailed by populists.

In fact, PiS are going to be hoisted onto there own populist petard, asit were, to coin a phrase...

michael farris said...

I think getting Gilowska was a huge coup for PiS and will strengthen them.

She was a big big figure in PO who was unceremoniously tossed out due to a minor glitch that should have deserved at most a minor reprimand.

I also have the idea that PiS might even want early elections because they think now they can get an absolute majority and I for one wouldn't bet against them.

beatroot said...

But tbeir opinion poll ratings have improved since the election. Marcinkiewicz is the most trusted politician in Poland. having an election while still on your honeymoon might just be as hrewd move...