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New faces, new jobs in Poland’s government

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Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki announced a reshuffle of his nationalist Law and Justice (PiS) government on Wednesday, streamlining jobs and appointing an arch conservative to the influential education ministry.

PiS chief Jaroslaw Kaczynski took up a post of deputy premier, in what Morawiecki described was an effort to make the three-party coalition govern more effectively.

Only one ministry went to a woman, compared with four in the previous lineup.

DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER, JAROSLAW KACZYNSKI, 71

As a founding head of PiS, Kaczynski is seen as the main arbiter on policy and government jobs in Poland, even though he has held no executive posts since a conservative government he headed collapsed in 2007.

He is said to prefer pulling the levers of power from behind the scenes since the death of his twin brother, Lech, in a plane crash over Russia. Poland’s president at the time, Lech Kaczynski was killed alongside nearly 100 officials in 2010.

Local media have said that his emergence into the limelight means he will seek to arbitrate between powerful Justice Minister Zbigniew Ziobro and Morawiecki, who are said to be vying to succeed the ageing leader.

EDUCATION MINISTER, PRZEMYSLAW CZARNEK, 43

Previously a regional governor, Czarnek is a Catholic university lecturer who has called a gay pride march in eastern Poland “a disgusting display of one’s sexuality”.

Ahead of a July presidential election, Czarnek said that one must “stop listening to idiocies about human rights and other equalities…these (LGBT) people are not equal to normal people, lets end this discussion.”

As minister, he has pledged to prevent the “LGBT ideology” which he says aims to “separate sexuality from morality” from reaching school children.

DEVELOPMENT, LABOUR AND TECHNOLOGY MINISTER, JAROSLAW GOWIN, 58

Head of the small Accord coalition grouping, Gowin rejoins the government after he quit earlier this year in protest against PiS efforts to hold a presidential election in May without any delay despite the coronavirus pandemic.

Gowin is seen as more socially and economically liberal than Kaczynski and Ziobro.

JUSTICE MINISTER, ZBIGNIEW ZIOBRO, 50

Ziobro retains his post despite speculation in recent weeks that he might be pushed out over his insistence that Poland take a more hardline position on issues such as LGBT and women’s rights.

A former member of the European Parliament, Ziobro is the architect of the PiS government’s justice reforms which the European Union says subvert the rule of law by politicising courts and prosecution.

AGRICULTURE MINISTER, GRZEGORZ PUDA, 38

A PiS lawmaker since 2015, Puda is a strong defender of a legislative proposal to ban the breeding of animals for fur. The draft bill sparked internal conflict within the ruling coalition and criticism from Agriculture Minister Jan Ardanowski, who said it would anger PiS’ core rural electorate. Puda will now replace Ardanowski.

ENVIRONMENT AND CLIMATE MINISTER, MICHAL KURTYKA, 47

An economist by training, Kurtyka has been Poland’s climate minister. He will face the tricky task of navigating relations with the European Union over emissions goals and coal policy.

Poland generates most of its power from coal and is the only EU state that has not pledged to be carbon neutral by 2050. Kurtyka, who oversaw the COP24 climate conference in Poland in 2018 and is known as more of a technocrat than an ideologue, is considered the green face of Poland’s coal-friendly government.

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