The departure of the junior coalition partner Agreement from the United Right coalition government and notable difficulties in advancing the controversial “lex TVN” bill in parliament earlier this month raise questions about whether Mateusz Morawiecki’s government still has a majority in the more powerful lower house of parliament (Sejm) and, more importantly, whether it can (and will) govern until the next general election scheduled for autumn 2023.
The answer largely depends on two factors: (1) whether the ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party is able to implement its policy agenda and (2) the PiS ratings.
The PiS, together with its right-wing coalition partner United Poland, hold 227 seats in the 460-seat Sejm, but the government is generally supported by the three members of the Kukiz’15 party and two independent deputies. This gives the Morawiecki government a slim and rather unpredictable majority. The resilience of this (de facto) majority will be tested in the autumn.
First, the opposition Civic Coalition is initiating a motion of no confidence in the Sejm speaker Elzbieta Witek (PiS), who the opposition accuses of breaching the law when ordering a repeated vote on lex TVN on 11 August. The opposition’s success in removing Witek would be a strong indication that the PiS is losing its grip on power; it could then embolden the opposition to seek a vote of no confidence in the entire cabinet.
Second, the opposition-controlled upper house of parliament (Senate) will likely reject the controversial media bill on 9-10 September thereby sending it back to the Sejm. The Senate’s veto can be overturned only by an absolute majority of votes in the lower chamber of parliament. And even if the PiS is successful in advancing the media bill, there are indications that President Andrzej Duda is considering vetoing the controversial bill. This would effectively block lex TVN as a three-fifths Sejm majority is needed to override the president’s veto.
Finally, the PiS has promised a swift implementation of its flagship post- pandemic recovery package called the Polish Deal, which requires the passage of multiple bills in parliament.
Given its precarious position in parliament and the likely challenges in advancing its policy agenda, the PiS could opt for a snap parliamentary election. However, at this point such a scenario would favour the opposition Civic Coalition and political newcomer Poland 2050, which together would likely outperform the PiS and would have greater chances of forming a new government. In order to recover its popularity, the PiS is actively promoting the Polish Deal, which includes generous family benefits and tax cuts. The European Commission’s approval of the EUR 36bn national recovery and resilience plan could help the government finance its promises. In this context, the PiS decision to comply with the ECJ ruling and eliminate the contentious Disciplinary Chamber of the Supreme Court is a logical step, while further compromises to try to unlock the EU funding could be expected.
The PiS recovery in opinion polls from the current 36% to around 40-45% would make the early election more likely. However, its ratings will depend not only on the success of implementing the Polish Deal but also on the handling of the tensions with Belarus, the management of the anticipated fourth wave of the Covid-19 pandemic this autumn, as well as on the mitigation of surging (energy) prices.