Polish ruling party replaces PM ahead of elections

FILE PHOTO: Poland's Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Mateusz Morawiecki attends a news conference at the Bercy Ministry in Paris
FILE PHOTO: Poland’s Finance Minister Mateusz Morawiecki attends a news conference at the Bercy Ministry in Paris, France, February 22, 2017. REUTERS/Charles Platiau/File Photo

December 7, 2017

By Pawel Sobczak

WARSAW (Reuters) – Poland’s ruling conservatives named Finance Minister Mateusz Morawiecki as the country’s new prime minister on Thursday as they gear up for a series of elections in the coming years.

Morawiecki, who has also been a deputy prime minister, will replace the largely popular Beata Szydlo in a move marking the midpoint of the parliamentary term and in what is the beginning of a broader government reshuffle.

Sources told Reuters this week that Morawiecki, 49, was the most likely candidate to replace Szydlo, 54, to prepare the party – led by Jaroslaw Kaczynski, Poland’s paramount politician – for elections due in the next three years.

Local elections will be held in 2018, parliamentary in 2019 and presidential in 2020.

Morawiecki, 49, an ex-banker, is broadly favored by Kaczynski, while Szydlo lacked the full trust of the party’s chairman, analysts say.

“(The party) nominated the candidacy of Deputy Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki,” Beata Mazurek, the spokeswoman for the Law and Justice (PiS) party said, adding that Szydlo had tendered her resignation.

Since the eurosceptic PiS won power two years ago, Szydlo has overseen sweeping changes to state institutions in Poland, which critics in the European Union and Washington say have subverted democracy and the rule of law.

Despite the criticism, her conservative government was one of the most popular in Poland since the 1989 collapse of communism, largely due to low unemployment, increases in public spending and a focus on traditional Catholic values in public life.

“The last two years – it was an extraordinary time for me and the service to Poland and Poles was an honor,” Szydlo said on Twitter.

(Reporting by Pawel Sobczak; Writing by Lidia Kelly; Editing by Alison Williams)

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