With KaczyÅski ill, Poland mulls what's next JarosÅaw KaczyÅski, current leader of Poland's ruling Law and Justice party | Janek Skarzynski
JarosÅaw KaczyÅski, current leader of Poland's ruling Law and Justice party | Janek Skarzynski
WARSAW â" Speculation about a potential changing of the guard in Polandâs ruling party is taking hold in government circles, after officials confirmed the countryâs de-facto leader JarosÅaw KaczyÅski was admitted to hospital due to a âlife-threatening situation,â not a knee injury.
KaczyÅski, the powerful head of Polandâs ruling Law and Justice party, has been missing from the publi c eye since late April and was initially said to be suffering from a âosteoarthritisâ in his right knee.
âJarosÅaw KaczyÅskiâs state of health was such that not accepting him to the hospital would have threatened his life, and therefore he was admitted in an acute manner,â Polandâs health minister, Åukasz Szumowski, told Polish radio.
The Law and Justice partyâs spokesperson, Beata Mazurek confirmed the statement, but declined to provide details.
KaczyÅski, who will turn 69 on Monday, was released from hospital on June 8, after being treated for more than a month. He didnât show up Saturday for a ceremony â" attended by Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki and senior PiS leaders â" to unveil a monument in the port city of Szczecin for his twin brother Lech, who died in a plane crash in 2010 while serving as Polandâs president.
Information about the state of KaczyÅskiâs health has been a tightly kept secret, but his absence has nevertheless prompted speculation about a potential successor.
Interior Minister Joachim BrudziÅski sharply pushed back against it, saying that, âAll those dreaming about replacing KaczyÅski, must get armed with a very long patience.â The partyâs first deputy chairman and a close KaczyÅski ally said in a TV interview: âThe chairman is in full control of what is going on in the party and is not planning a political retirement.â
But BrudziÅskiâs rebuke only fueled the chatter in Warsaw about what or who might come next. Heâs a member of the so-called convent of loyal KaczyÅski supporters, and himself considered to be a potential contender to the PiS leadership post.
Before becoming interior minister in a January government reshuffle, BrudziÅski was PiSâs all powerful executive secretary, a role that put him in charge of party structures and granted him a firm grip on the organization.
BrudziÅski is not the only senior figure who is well-placed to take over. A recent poll, conducted by pollster IBRIS for the daily Rzeczpospolita, showed 14.4 percent thought Morawiecki would be best placed to replace the PiS leader, over 9 percent for BrudziÅski and 8.6 percent for former Prime Minister Beata SzydÅo (42.8 percent said they didnât know).
Morawiecki, who turns 50 on Wednesday, emerged last year as an unexpected KaczyÅski protÃ©gÃ©. The slick former banker replaced a reclusive SzydÅo as prime minister in December and started a charm offensive in Brussels, at Davos and in other Western capitals to improve Polandâs image, which has been tarnished by judiciary reforms the European Commission c onsiders to be a breach of the rule of law.
The prime minister may also be an attractive candidate in PiS circles because he presents himself as a far-right politician: At a February conference in Munich he referred to âJewish perpetrators of the Holocaust,â and in his first interview Morawiecki said it was his âdream to re-Christianize Europe.â
Another possible contender to replace KaczyÅski is justice minister Zbigniew Ziobro, the brain behind Polandâs judiciary reform. Ziobro, 47, is the leader of the small Solidarna Polska party that joined the PiS electoral ticket.
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