Kaczynski joins new Polish Cabinet as deputy prime minister

The leader of the Polish ruling party, Jaroslaw Kaczynski,center, speaks to reporters in Warsaw, Poland, Saturday, Sept. 26, 2020. The three parties in Poland's conservative coalition government signed a new coalition agreement on Saturday, putting aside disagreements. But they gave no details, leaving lingering uncertainty about how the Cabinet will look in practice after an expected reshuffle.(AP Photo/Czarek Sokolowski) (Czarek Sokolowski, Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

WARSAW – Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki presented a reshuffled Cabinet on Wednesday that formally brings the conservative ruling party's leader into a government position, together with a new education minister who has said LGBT people are “not equal” to others.

Jaroslaw Kaczynski, the behind-the-scenes strategist of the government since his Law and Justice party came to power for the second time in 2015, will be a deputy prime minister under Morawiecki. He will have supervision authority over the defense, justice and interior ministries, according to Polish media reports.

Morawiecki said the Kaczynski's presence would strengthen the government.

The move had been expected for days as Law and Justice was in negotiations with two junior coalition partners amid tensions in the governing coalition. It's an awkward arrangement because it leaves Kaczynski subordinate to Morawiecki in the government, but still the key powerbroker in the country.

There is to be only one woman in the government — the minister for family and social policies.

The new minister of education and science is Przemyslaw Czarnek, who angered many this summer when he said that LGBT people “are not equal to normal people.”

“Let’s protect ourselves against LGBT ideology and stop listening to idiocy about some human rights or some equality,” Czarnek said then.

Opposition politicians strongly denounced the appointment of Czarnek, which was seen as the most controversial change in Morawiecki's Cabinet.

“Such a man is the minister of national education? It’s just a scandal and a disgrace,” said Piotr Zgorzelski, a lawmaker with the centrist Polish People's Party. He said national education should stand for tolerance, but "Mr. Czarnek became famous for his words about dehumanizing other people, about stigmatizing sexual minorities.”

The stated purpose of the government reshuffle has been to reduce the number of ministries to make governance more efficient.

Kaczynski, 71, served as prime minister from 2006 to 2007 and is a lawmaker in the lower house of parliament. However, since 2015 he has guided government strategy from behind the scenes. Critics say that arrangement gave him huge power but no true accountability.

Lawmaker Cezary Tomczyk, with the opposition party Civic Platform, said the new Cabinet represented “bad change” because it kept the worst ministers from the outgoing Cabinet. He said the only positive aspect is Kaczynski's entry because it would give him accountability.

The reshuffled Cabinet keeps hard-liner Zbigniew Ziobro as justice minister.

Poland’s government has been in a crisis since a small junior coalition party led by Ziobro refused to back an animal rights bill proposed by Kaczynski in a parliamentary vote in September,

Polish political commentators often speak of a power struggle between Ziobro, 50, and Morawiecki, 52, for eventual control of Poland’s political right as the Kaczynski era comes to an end.

Ziobro has been behind policies that have created tensions with international partners while Morawiecki is seen as relatively more moderate.

Ziobro has guided an overhaul of Poland’s justice system, allegedly to fight corruption, which has put courts under greater political control. That led the European Union to voice fears that the rule of law is under threat in Poland.

The European Commission highlighted its concerns in a new report on Wednesday.