Political instability is up, but the government will stay on in Poland

Junior coalition partner Agreement’s exit will drive an increase in political instability – yet the government appears likely to stay on in minority, for now. 

WHAT’S HAPPENING: 

PM Morawiecki dismissed his deputy, Jaroslaw Gowin, leader of junior coalition partner Agreement. Given Gowin’s position as a more moderate right-winger than coalition partners Law and Justice (PiS) and United Poland, and his openness towards the opposition centre-right Civic Coalition, his term in government has been conflict-ridden and his departure has long been on the cards. The two immediate reasons for the rupture are: 

  • A media law, set to be adopted today, that in effect forbids non-EEA (European Economic Area) majority ownership of Polish media outlets. The law is directed against news network TVN24, owned by US media holding Discovery. Gowin had heavily criticised the law prior to his dismissal. 
  • A dispute over tax hikes within the Polish New Deal, a programme to restart the economy after the pandemic, which provoked an Agreement veto of the entire package. 

WHAT’S NEXT: 

Gowin’s departure is almost certain to be followed by Agreement’s exit from the coalition. The establishment of a new coalition is highly unlikely, meaning that the government will almost certainly lose its majority in the Sejm (the lower house of parliament). 

BASELINE SCENARIO: 

This spells a further decrease in Poland’s already shaky political stability, requiring the government to strike ad-hoc deals to pass legislation going forward. Failure to secure support for key bills could lead to the government’s resignation and snap elections. Yet the core outlook (60%) remains that the government will hold on in minority. 

ANALYSIS: 

Vast resources, including many positions in state-owned enterprises, are available to the government, and will likely be widely used to incentivise MPs towards voting with the government, in line with established practice. 

PiS can also count on the support of several MPs formally in the opposition, as will likely be demonstrated at the vote on the media law today. Specifically, four MPs from Kukiz ‘15, a small right-wing group with whom PiS struck up an agreement in June in anticipation of Gowin’s exit, along with a handful of likely dissenters from Agreement, are likely to side with the government on most issues. 

Finally, PiS has no interest in holding a snap election at the moment. Three waves of the pandemic, the latter two especially taxing, and lacklustre vaccination have significantly harmed its popularity, and polls show a vote now would likely produce a shift. PiS is banking on the two years it has left in office to reverse the trend through an ample rollout of social payments financed by EU funds and fast growth. Yet even if it is unable to pursue that agenda, it has significant room to cling to power — and is likely to choose to sit it out rather than face a likely defeat at the ballot box.