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Polish report Polish report
by Euro Reporter
2011-11-09 07:23:12
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Opposition party expels 3 outspoken members

Poland's main opposition party, Law and Justice, has expelled three prominent members who had called for more openness from leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski -- a critical split for a party that has not won an election in six years. The three include Zbigniew Ziobro, the party's vice chairman and a former justice minister long considered a rising star in the party. After elections on Oct. 9 that failed to return the party to power, Ziobro called for an open debate on the outcome, which was disappointing for the party that governed from 2005-2007. Ziobro also called for more democracy and openness within the conservative and nationalist group -- comments seen as criticism of Kaczynski.

Party spokesman Adam Hofman said the party voted by a large majority at a meeting Friday evening to expel Ziobro and two of his supporters, Jacek Kurski and Tadeusz Cymanski. Ziobro denounced his expulsion as "unjust." "This is a bad day for the Polish right," Ziobro said. It "divides and doesn't unite us." The expulsions are another sign of weakening in a party that has failed to win an election since 2005. The group has a devoted core following of conservative, patriotic Poles but Kaczynski is also considered divisive and combative by a large number of people. Kaczynski made an unsuccessful bid for the presidency last year, hoping to replace his brother, President Lech Kaczynski, who was killed in a plane crash.

Following that defeat, a handful of members left the party over conflicts with Kaczynski. They went on to form a new conservative party, Polska Jest Najwazniejsza (Poland Matters Most), but that group failed to win representation in the new parliament in last month's elections. Observers will now be watching to see if Ziobro and his allies will form a new party. Ziobro enjoys the support of a powerful right-wing cleric, the Rev. Tadeusz Rydzyk, who runs the popular Radio Maryja. Last month's elections were won by the centre-right Civic Platform party of Prime Minister Donald Tusk, marking the first time in Poland's 22-year post-communist history that a party has won two consecutive terms. Tusk's popularity has been bolstered by a growing economy and an image he enjoys of moderation and stability.


Sejm elects Kopacz first female speaker

Former Health Minister Ewa Kopacz is the first woman in the history of Poland to hold the position. Civic Platform (PO) MP Ewa Kopacz, a former health minister, was chosen today as the new speaker of the Sejm, Poland's lower house of parliament.

Ms Kopacz received 300 votes in the 460-member parliament and is the first woman to be elected to the position in the history of all Polish parliaments, ever. Ms Kopacz, a medical doctor by education, was first elected to parliament in 2005 as a member of PO. She became minister of health in 2007.
Ms Kopacz raised controversy in 2009 by requesting pharmaceutical companies to present the advantages of swine flu vaccines and demanding they take full responsibility for the side effects. She advised the Polish government to wait until proper testing had been done on the vaccine before purchasing it.

Although she was initially criticized for the move, she later received praise after it was revealed that some scientists with close ties to drug companies that sold swine flu vaccines had lobbied the World Health Organization to declare the H1N1 virus a global pandemic. According to the Polish constitution, the Speaker of the Sejm takes over in case the president dies or is incapacitated.


Conservative MPs form 'Poland United' breakaway group after dismissals

Sixteen MPs and one senator from the Law and Justice (PiS) opposition have formed a new political bloc within parliament after former justice minister and now MEP Zbigniew Ziobro was sacked from the party last week. The Law and Justice leadership, however, have said that if the politicians do not reconsider then they will be sacked from the party. The move has further splintered the conservative opposition after losing MPs last year to the Poland Comes First (PJN) political party. The new bloc in parliament is to be headed by MP Arkadiusz Mularczyk, who explained that he believed that Ziobro's expulsion last week was “incorrect and misguided.”

Law and Justice leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski sacked Ziobro and two other members of the European Parliament (MEPs) after statements calling for more democracy in the party after failure in the 9 October general elections, where the party came a poor second to Civic Platform. Although Ziobro came forward yesterday to thank his colleagues for “the beautiful gesture”, he claimed that he does not want to break up Law and Justice, underlining that “we are not creating a new party” and that the move is aimed at ensuring “a PiS victory” at the next election. However, Law and Justice spokesman Adam Hofman was quick to declare that members of the new 'club' had violated party statutes, and “if they do not reconsider”, they will be removed from Law and Justice.

Ziobro was once regarded as a potential successor to Jaroslaw Kaczynski and was a firm favourite of the party faithful when he was justice minister in the 2005 – 07 Law and Justice-led coalition government. The new faction is called Solidarna Polska, an allusion to the 1980s trade union from which Law and Justice descended from. The name literally means “A Poland in Agreement” or a “United Poland.” The breakaway politicians are Beata Kempa, Andrzej Dera, Marzena Wróbel, Tadeusz Woźniak, Mieczysław Golba, Jerzy Rębek, Patryk Jaki, Piotr Szeliga, Jarosław Żaczek, Andrzej Romanek, Arkadiusz Mularczyk, Jan Ziobro, Edward Siarka, Józef Rojek, Mariusz Orion Jędrysek, Jacek Bogucki and senator Maciej Klima.

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