Poland's ruling party announces makeup of Cabinet

AP News
Posted: Nov 09, 2015 12:07 PM
Poland's ruling party announces makeup of Cabinet

WARSAW, Poland (AP) — Poland's conservative Law and Justice party announced the makeup of its new government Monday, with a moderate prime minister surrounded by a Cabinet that is very pro-American and suspicious of Russia.

Party leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski announced that Beata Szydlo will be prime minister, as expected, after the party won power in a parliamentary election Oct. 25.

Standing alongside Kaczynski at the party headquarters in Warsaw, Szydlo then named the members of her Cabinet, who must be approved and sworn in by President Andrzej Duda. A date for that has not been set yet, but it is expected to happen soon after the outgoing government steps down Thursday and the newly elected parliament convenes for the first time that day.

Many of the government members also served in the last Law and Justice government, from 2005 to 2007, a time marked by a determined effort to purge the country of corruption and the influence of former communists. But critics accused Kaczynski and his allies of taking things too far, sometimes abandoning due process in their zeal to clean up the country and at other times using secret services against their political opponents.

Here's a look at some top appointments:

— the new foreign minister will be Witold Waszczykowski, a pro-American former deputy foreign minister who had a key role in negotiating a Bush-era plan for Poland to host a U.S. missile defense base. That plan was canceled by President Barack Obama, to the deep disappointment many in Poland.

— Mateusz Morawiecki, chief executive of Poland's third largest bank, Bank Zachodni WBK SA, was picked to be deputy prime minister in charge of economic affairs. That is seen as an attempt to reassure investors about the financial program of the party, which promised to increase social spending. Critics fear that could seriously damage the state budget.

— Poland's new defense minister will be Antoni Macierewicz, perhaps the most controversial new appointment. He is a former deputy defense minister who purged the country's military intelligence agency of any former communist influences, liquidating it and releasing the names of agents, some with ties to Moscow. To his supporters, it was a long-due reckoning with the continued influence of Russia in this former communist state. But critics say his efforts went too far and weakened the country's security services.

Macierewicz is a polarizing figure in Poland for his theory that the plane crash in Russia in 2010 that killed President Lech Kaczynski and dozens of other state officials was an assassination, not an accident. Official state investigations in Russia and Poland have declared the disaster an accident.

— Another controversial nomination is that of Mariusz Kaminski, a former head of the Central Anti-Corruption Bureau, to be the coordinator of special services, overseeing police and intelligence agencies. Kaminski was convicted of abusing his power in 2007 as head of the anti-corruption body and was slapped with a three-year suspended sentence. He has appealed. "This does not pose a problem for us; he always fought against corruption," Szydlo said.

— Zbigniew Ziobro, a former justice minister who developed a reputation for being overzealous in his attempts to fight corruption returns to head that ministry after an eight-year break.