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Polish finance chief Morawiecki to be the new prime minister

UPDATED: Thu., Dec. 7, 2017, 12:13 p.m.

WARSAW, Poland – Poland’s prime minister has resigned and will be replaced by Finance Minister Mateusz Morawiecki, the conservative ruling party announced Thursday.

The reshuffling came after weeks of speculation that Prime Minister Beata Szydlo could be replaced, even though her government is popular with many Poles and the economy is booming.

Beata Mazurek, the Law and Justice party spokeswoman, said Szydlo resigned during a party meeting in Warsaw on Thursday but added the party leadership wants Szydlo to hold some other important government position. She did not elaborate.

Government critics, however, saw the leadership change as mostly a smoke screen to divert attention from a Friday vote on laws that would give the ruling party significant power over Poland’s judicial system.

The changes in the government will still need to be approved during a parliament session next week, but that is largely a formality since the ruling party enjoys a majority in both houses of the parliament,

While Szydlo’s two-year-old government is riding high in opinion polls, Morawiecki has overseen its economic development. Poland now enjoys record low unemployment, growing wages and growth of over 4 percent per year.

Some also see Morawiecki, a former international banker who speaks foreign languages, as a better placed than Szydlo to negotiate with European partners who believe democracy is eroding in Poland.

Still, Szydlo, a coal miner’s daughter and the mother of a priest, has wide support among conservatives.

Earlier Thursday, Szydlo and her Cabinet easily survived a no-confidence vote in parliament called by the opposition centrist Civic Platform party, which accuses the government of harming Poland with laws that it says are anti-democratic.

Two bills are set for a final vote in parliament Friday that would give the government greater control of the judicial system. The bills have been criticized by the European Union and others as an anti-democratic threat to Poland’s rule of law.

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