Polish Prime Minister Beata Szydlo sent a tweet early Tuesday that seems to read like a farewell, amid rumors in Warsaw that she might be replaced by Finance Minister Mateusz Morawiecki next week. Szydlo sent the tweet after midnight following talks in her conservative ruling Law and Justice party on reshuffling the government.
There had been rumors for weeks in the Polish media that party leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski could become the next prime minister though now Polish reports suggest the most likely new leader will be Morawiecki, a deputy prime minister who is also the minister for development and finance.
Kaczynski is widely seen as the real power behind the government, guiding its decisions from his party headquarters and from his seat in parliament where he serves as one of 460 members of the lower house, or Sejm. It is not clear if Morawiecki could take an independent path or if he would also largely follow the direction Kaczynski sets.
Szydlo wrote: “Regardless of everything the most important thing is Poland. One that takes care of family and values (and is) safe. That grew from the foundation of Christian values, tolerant and open. Modern and ambitious. That is my country. An example for Europe and the world. That’s who we Poles are.”
The daily newspaper Rzeczpospolita reported Tuesday, citing unnamed sources, that that Kaczynski has presented to party lawmakers his plan for Morawiecki to take the helm of the Cabinet next week.
Morawiecki, 49, has won praise for overseeing an economy that has boomed in the two years since the Law and Justice party took power and he is widely considered one of the government’s most skilled and competent members.
Critics, however, say the boom is largely thanks to the fiscal discipline of the previous centrist government and growth across Europe that is improving conditions in many places. Either way, Poles have enjoyed falling employment and rising wages as the economy is growing at more than 4 percent this year.
Morawiecki is a former international banker who ran Spanish bank Santander’s operations in Poland before Law and Justice won power. It seems an unlikely background for someone who has played a key role in a nationalistic party that seeks to limit foreign influence in the country and the intrusion of global capitalism.
Under Morawiecki, Poland has taken steps to ‘re-Polonize’ the banking industry, for example by re-taking control of one of the country’s largest banks, Pekao SA, formerly controlled by Italy’s UniCredit. Law and Justice also launched a hugely popular welfare program that pays monthly cash bonuses to families with at least two children.
While the ruling Law and Justice party and Szydlo herself are both popular among Poles, Morawiecki could be better prepared to represent the country internationally as Poland faces a worsening standoff with the European Union over legal changes seen as attacks on the rule of law.
Morawiecki speaks English and German and has international experience from his years as a banker, while Szydlo only speaks Polish.
He also is said to be well-liked by Kaczynski and there have been hints at his rising prominence. At a party congress in the summer, Kaczynski and Morawiecki – but not Szydlo – gave speeches to the delegates.