The future of the tripartite coalition government in Poland has been questioned as parliament votes on Wednesday on a controversial media ownership bill that could lead to the loss of the license of the country’s largest independent television station.
After a night of protests in Warsaw and 80 other cities against the bill, which opponents see as an attempt to silence an often critical broadcaster, the government said on Wednesday it was confident it would win the vote.
But the outcome is far from certain since Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki on Tuesday sacked his deputy Jarosław Gowin, leader of the young member of the Accord coalition, for criticizing the law, forcing the party to officially leave the government. .
“I am counting on the fact that issues related to the media law will win a majority in parliament and I am sure that the united right-wing government will continue to function,” government spokesman Piotr Müller told state radio .
The 13 MPs who formally belong to the Accord group in the lower house of parliament, which has 460 seats, are increasingly at odds with the main partner of the United Right’s coalition, the populist Law and Justice (PiS) party, and their departure deprives the government of its majority with one vote.
But that doesn’t automatically imply the collapse of the PiS-led government, which would require a formal vote of no confidence in parliament. Müller said he was convinced that “enough members of parliament will support the beneficial reforms we are proposing”.
Observers said the PiS would try to persuade Accord MPs to break the party line and also seek to win enough independent MPs to secure a majority, with Polish media report cash and other incentives were offered.
Gowin said his party was leaving government “with its head held high” after expressing deep disagreements over planned tax changes – the so-called “Polish deal,” intended to win government re-election in 2023 – and the bill. on the media.
If passed, the broadcasting law would prohibit any television channel from being majority owned by companies located outside the European Economic Area, forcing the American group Discovery to sell most of its stake in TVN, the main private network in Poland.
“This law clearly violates the principle of media freedom,” Gowin said, adding that the change “would push us towards a confrontation with the United States, which is our most important ally from a defense point of view.”
The Civic Opposition Platform, led since July by former Polish Prime Minister and President of the European Council Donald Tusk, is determined to defeat PiS and has seized media freedom as an issue that could unite a broad alliance of ‘opposition.
Radosław Sikorski, Tusk’s former foreign minister and Civic Platform MEP, tweeted on Wednesday: “Our parliament will vote today to deny the right to vote TVN, the largest independent American-owned television channel. If the bill passes, we will likely cross the tipping point towards kleptocratic autocracy. “
The government denies that the measure targets a single broadcaster, saying it seeks to prevent potential media acquisitions by non-EU countries such as Russia and China, and has rejected proposals to restrict the ban on ownership of non-OECD countries.
But the move follows a sustained government drive to control the Polish media, in which public service bodies such as the state-owned TVP broadcaster become propaganda outlets for the ruling party, while the private and independent media have been regularly ousted.
Washington urged Warsaw to rethink, saying the proposed law would inevitably harm “defense, business and trade relations” between Poland and the United States. Hundreds of Polish journalists and editors also signed an open letter calling on the government to end “the destruction of media freedom in our country”.