WARSAW (Reuters) -Poland’s ruling party leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski returned to the cabinet as deputy prime minister on Wednesday, taking up a more prominent role ahead of a closely fought election expected in October or November.
The return of Kaczynski, widely viewed as Poland’s de-facto ruler, comes amid a stuttering campaign by the conservative ruling party, Law and Justice (PiS), for a third term that would likely see it continue policies that have set it at odds with the European Union.
“Thank you for joining the government, thank you because the previous tasks that you performed had great significance for the Republic,” said President Andrzej Duda after he formally approved the appointment.
“From the point of view of national security it is appropriate and necessary.”
The other deputy prime ministers resigned and will continue as ministers.
Kaczynski previously served as deputy prime minister from October 2020 till June 2022, and also headed Poland’s security committee.
Although PiS is ahead in most opinion polls, a question mark remains over whether it can secure a parliamentary majority.
Opposition parties received a boost this month from a large anti-government march in Warsaw.
PiS faces rising anger over Poland’s strict abortion laws and was strongly criticised for a decision to use images of Nazi Germany’s Auschwitz death camp in a campaign video.
Divisons in the ruling coalition have also re-emerged over Poland’s relations with Brussels, after the EU withheld funding over rule of law concerns. Observers say Kaczynski’s return may help to smooth those rifts.
Critics say PiS, since sweeping to power in 2015, has undermined the independence of Poland’s courts, turned state media into an outlet for propaganda and stirred up discrimination against ethnic and sexual minorities.
PiS denies subverting any democratic rules and says its policies are aimed at preserving Polish traditions and at making the economy work in a fairer way for all Poles.
Its mix of conservative social values and generous social welfare programmes has proved popular with many voters, propelling it to victory in two consecutive parliamentary elections.
(Reporting by Pawel Florkiewicz, Karol Badohal and Alan CharlishEditing by Gareth Jones and Emma Rumney)
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