It’s hardly a secret that Poland’s Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki and Justice Minister Zbigniew Ziobro have never been best friends.
Even Jaroslaw Kaczynski, kingmaker of the Law and Justice (PiS)-led coalition government, recently admitted that "there is some tension" between the two.
Things will get heated up Wednesday when the lower house of parliament holds a vote of confidence in Ziobro, who is also head of Solidarity Poland, a smaller party of the ruling United Right (ZP) coalition.
PiS says it will defend Ziobro, but some of its MPs are not sure whether the ruling coalition will survive until the 2023 general election, set to take place at the latest by next September.
PiS has 198 seats in the lower house of parliament and 48 in the Senate. Solidarity Poland has 19 MPs and two senators. PiS needs the support of Solidarity Poland to form the government.
The coalition has twice in recent years been close to breaking, once shortly after the last parliamentary election in 2019 and again after the presidential election in 2020, but Kaczynski managed to hold it together.
“In the vote on the motion of no confidence in the minister of justice, I will of course defend Zbigniew Ziobro, I will defend the unity of the United Right,” Morawiecki said on Monday. He added that the ruling coalition is a "big tent" formation that combines different views.
The feeling is not mutual. "If it weren't for the fact that leaving the coalition would mean putting Poland in the hands of (opposition leader) Donald Tusk, the paths of Solidarity Poland and PiS would part," Ziobro told the weekly wSieci.
Ziobro accuses Morawiecki of making Poland dependent on Brussels. "For the first four years of our rule, the Eurocrats tore their hair out because they could only wave toothless Article 7 and pass gibberish resolutions in the European Parliament. After the prime minister agreed to new mechanisms, they gained a real tool - economic blackmail," he said.
"In December 2020, without any consultations, Morawiecki made an arbitrary decision and dragged Poland into implementation of a plan unfavorable for our country, which - let me repeat - had been prepared for years under the supervision of Tusk as the head of the European Council under the dictation of Germany," he added.
In response, Morawiecki said: “To say that we have given more power to Brussels than previous governments, or anyone before, is a complete misunderstanding. If the Minister of Justice wants it, I will explain it to him in detail.”
The European Commission is holding back payments to Poland of €36 billion ($40 billion) from the EU's post-pandemic recovery fund until Warsaw can show it is rolling back changes made to the judiciary, which the EU says breach its rule-of-law commitments.
In a vote last week recognizing Russia as a state sponsoring terrorism, PiS unexpectedly added that Russia was also responsible for the 2010 plane crash in Smolensk and the opposition refused to support it, triggering a crisis of confidence in Ziobro.
Supporters of Ziobro have said that they will not forget the defeat, for which they blame Morawiecki.
Ziobro views himself as the natural heir to Kaczynski, who at 72 is likely to move away from frontline politics after the next election.
Solidarity Poland’s worldview is based in a paranoid version of the post-1989 transition, led by Antoni Macierewicz, a former defense minister, and the influential head of the Catholic radio station Radio Maryja, Father Tadeusz Rydzyk. Solidarity Poland has flirted with the far-right Confederation party, publicly talking about a possible alliance.
Polls, meanwhile, show that if elections were held now, 40% would vote for the United Right, up 2%, and 28% for the Civic Coalition (down 1%), a poll for wPolityce.pl portal noted.
This is the best result of the party led by Kaczynski for several months
The Confederation could count on 8% (down 1%), with another 8% saying they would vote for the Left (down 1%).