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Polish ruling coalition collapses as proposed media law stirs dispute

Poland's conservative coalition government collapsed on Wednesday, following Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki's dismissal of Deputy Prime Minister Jaroslaw Gowin.

Warsaw, 12 August 2021 (dpa/MIA) — Poland’s conservative coalition government collapsed on Wednesday, following Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki’s dismissal of Deputy Prime Minister Jaroslaw Gowin.

Gowin’s conservative Porozumenie [Agreement] party decided to leave the coalition government as well as the joint parliamentary group with the ruling PiS [Law and Justice] party. From now on, Porozumenie plans to act as an independent parliamentary group, spokesperson Jan Strzek announced on Twitter.

Porozumenie’s departure means the PiS party has lost its majority in parliament, with all signs pointing to a minority government. PiS spokesperson Radoslaw Fogiel called this a “real scenario,” in comments carried by web portal Wirtualna Polska.

“Governing in such a situation is difficult and uncomfortable, but not impossible,” he added.

Gowin’s Porozumenie had 12 of the ruling coalition’s 232 seats in parliament.

On Tuesday, Morawiecki dismissed Gowin, who had been serving as Poland’s development minister as well as its deputy prime minister.

The sacking was reportedly due to Gowin’s failure to back a new broadcasting law restricting non-European media outlets from operating in Poland, widely seen as a move to tighten government control of the media landscape, as well as for the lack of progress on an economic stimulus program aimed at bolstering the country’s post-pandemic economy.

The measure has drawn criticism from the US, which demanded that Poland prove it is following democratic procedures and protecting media rights.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the US was “deeply troubled by draft legislation passed today by the lower house of the Polish parliament that targets the most watched independent news station, which is also one of the largest U.S. investments in the country.”

Blinken said the draft legislation “would significantly weaken the media environment the Polish people have worked so long to build.”

Critics argue that the Polish law targets the private broadcaster TVN, which is part of Discovery, of the US, through a holding company that is registered in the Netherlands.

On Tuesday, thousands of people took to the streets to protest the controversial draft.

The measure eventually passed, 228–216, with 10 members withholding their vote, but only after a parliamentary session of reversals.

Members of the opposition had rallied to force a delay in the vote until September and, for a while, seemed to have settled the issue with a 229–227 vote.

However, Elzbieta Witek, the parliament’s president and a PiS member forced a redo of the vote because no date had been set for the delayed vote on the media bill, clearing the way for the final vote.

The measure must now go to the Senate.

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