Polish minister wants talks to end ruling coalition crisis

Zbigniew Ziobro, Vera Jourova

FILE – In this Jan. 28, 2020 file photo, Poland’s Justice Minister Zbigniew Ziobro, left, welcomes vice president of the European Commission Vera Jourova, for talks on the conflict over the government’s much-criticized taking of steps to control the judiciary in Warsaw, Poland. An official with Poland’s conservative governing party, which has been governing with the support of two small parties, one led by the justice minister Ziobro, said Friday, Sept. 18, 2020, that the the country’s right-wing coalition government has collapsed. (AP Photo/Czarek Sokolowski, file)

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WARSAW, Poland (AP) — Poland’s justice minister called Monday for talks among the ruling coalition’s parties to overcome a crisis after his junior party voted against government-backed legislation in parliament.

The dissent by the United Poland party of Justice Minister Zbigniew Ziobro prompted the main coalition member, the right-wing nationalist Law and Justice party, to warn that the coalition that has ruled since 2015 was crumbling and that a minority government could be formed without Ziobro’s party.

Law and Justice leaders were meeting Monday to decide whether to shed both Ziobro’s party and him as minister. At issue was also the future of the other small coalition partner, a party led by Jaroslaw Gowin, that also failed to fully back the new legislation.

Just minutes before that meeting, Ziobro called a news conference and said the coalition of the United Right was worth preserving and he was ready for talks and compromise.

“We can surely make this world better in every meaning of the word, also in the area of this legislation,” Ziobro said. “We need such compromise and such talks and we are open and ready for them.”

Last week Ziobro’s party voted against a new animal protection law proposed by the Law and Justice party and strongly advocated by its leader, Jaroslaw Kaczynski, who has cats. It also said it would not back new legislation that gives immunity to state officials who disregarded the law while taking steps to counter the coronavirus pandemic.

The legislation would shield Ziobro’s political arch-rival, Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki, from responsibility for some controversial decisions taken while trying to organize a presidential election during the pandemic. Amid much chaos, the two-round election was postponed from May to June and July.

Without the 19 votes of Ziobro’s party, the ruling coalition will lose its fragile majority in parliament, where it holds 235 out of 460 seats.

The crisis is part of a power struggle in the coalition that is now controlled by the 71-year-old Kaczynski.

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