Polish PM survives confidence vote that he called for

December 12, 2018 GMT
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Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki, second left, is applauded by members of his government after winning the confidence vote in the parliament, in Warsaw, Poland, Wednesday, Dec. 12, 2018. Morawiecki’s conservative government easily survived a confidence vote in parliament that the leader had unexpectedly asked for earlier in the day. Morawiecki, with the ruling Law and Justice party, had said he wanted to reconfirm that his government has a mandate from lawmakers as it pushes through its “great reforms.”(AP Photo/Alik Keplicz)
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Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki, second left, is applauded by members of his government after winning the confidence vote in the parliament, in Warsaw, Poland, Wednesday, Dec. 12, 2018. Morawiecki’s conservative government easily survived a confidence vote in parliament that the leader had unexpectedly asked for earlier in the day. Morawiecki, with the ruling Law and Justice party, had said he wanted to reconfirm that his government has a mandate from lawmakers as it pushes through its “great reforms.”(AP Photo/Alik Keplicz)

WARSAW, Poland (AP) — Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki’s conservative government easily survived a confidence vote in parliament Wednesday that the leader had unexpectedly asked for earlier in the day.

Morawiecki, with the ruling Law and Justice party, said he wanted to reconfirm that his government has a mandate from lawmakers as it pushes through an agenda that mixes conservative social values with higher welfare spending to help the disadvantaged.

He also said he wanted to be sure his administration has a mandate ahead of a European Union summit on Thursday, though Poland isn’t on the agenda.

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“I believe that our government is carrying out good reforms, that we serve Poland well, and we want to continue serving it,” Morawiecki said in the Sejm, the lower house of parliament.

The move seemed primarily aimed at pre-empting a confidence vote on the government that the opposition had demanded. Even though the opposition lacks the votes to topple the government, triggering a confidence vote would have allowed opposition lawmakers to dominate a debate in which they could criticize the government.

Instead, Morawiecki got the most floor time and used it to hail what he views as successes of his party’s three years in power, the last year with him as prime minister. He highlighted Poland’s fast economic development, a rise in the minimum wage and low taxes for small businesses, among other achievements.

Still, political rivals accused the government of corruption and challenged it on many issues. One asked why Poland is importing coal from Russia, which is polluting and goes against the country’s own aim of reducing energy dependence on Russia.

The vote in favor of Morawiecki’s government was 231 to 181 with two abstentions.

Opponents described the vote as a tactical move aimed as seizing the offense ahead of elections next year for the European Parliament and for the national parliament.

Michal Szczerba, a lawmaker with the opposition party Civic Platform, called it a sign of “panic” in the ruling ranks.

It comes as the ruling party struggles to contain a financial scandal in the state Financial Supervision Authority, known widely by its Polish acronym KNF.

The scandal was triggered by a newspaper report last month alleging that Marek Chrzanowski, the head of the KNF, had sought a multimillion dollar bribe from the owner of a troubled bank in exchange for favors. Chrzanowski, who was appointed by the Law and Justice government, is now under arrest.

In recent days the justice minister ordered the detention and questioning of former employees of the KNF under an earlier government in what many consider an attempt to distract from the current scandal.