Last week, the leader of Poland's ruling Law and Justice party announced his decision to step down from government functions in order to concentrate on rallying up voters's support before next year's parliamentary elections. His campaign trail, however, did not get off to a particularly good start.
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Rumors about Jarosław Kaczyński's decision to resign from his position as deputy prime minister and head of the government's national security and defense affairs committee had been circulating for a while. On the morning of June 21, the Polish Press Agency (PAP) finally confirmed the speculations.

In an interview with the state press agency, the head of Poland’s ruling Law and Justice party announced that he is stepping down from government functions. He said that he managed to carry out the plan he had set for himself and will think fondly about his 20 months as deputy PM.

- Of course, I was supposed to step down four months earlier, but then the war in Ukraine broke out. Today, the course of the war is such that we cannot be sure when it is going to end. On the other hand, it is more or less clear when the elections are going to take place [fall of 2023], so I had to make a decision. I would gladly wait until the war is over, but it looks like it will drag on.

Kaczyński explained that he needs to focus on "what is most important for the future of Poland". - It is not that I’m overestimating my role, but... the party needs to regain its vigor because the most important time for any political party in the world is drawing closer. Elections are about getting a good electoral result, and as far as the Law and Justice party is concerned, a good electoral result means a victory, and the possibility to govern, of course as part of the United Right coalition - he said.

The minister of national defense Mariusz Błaszczak will replace Kaczyński as deputy PM. At the same time, the prime minister’s deputy chief of staff Zbigniew Hoffmann, a member of the government's national security and defense affairs committee, will now also be responsible for overseeing the work of the committee. Hoffmann has been in the prime minister's office since November 2020. With Kaczyński stepping down, he is being promoted to a ministerial position. – We should remember that Minister Błaszczak will mainly be busy overseeing the ministry of defense, and the security and defense committee deals with the affairs of the special services, the ministry of internal affairs, the ministry of foreign affairs, and, although to a lesser degree, with the affairs of the ministry of justice. Therefore, someone has to watch over its works on a daily basis. It should be a person of appropriate rank - Jarosław Kaczyński told PAP.

The leader of the Law and Justice party joined the government in early October 2020, dividing his time between the party and the government. He took on a new role as deputy prime minister for security affairs and created the national security and defense committee. His two main goals were preparing an extensive homeland defense bill, and managing political conflicts within the ruling camp.

Kaczyński’s campaign trail starts out with a "blast"

But Kaczyński’s efforts at persuading the electorate did not get off to a particularly good start.

On Sunday, June 26, the leader of the Law and Justice party arrived at the National Music School in Inowrocław (central Poland) to meet with his supporters. The rally was secured by numerous police units, which kept the people gathered in front of the building at a distance. After the event, when Kaczyński got into his limousine, the police reacted with violence.

At one point, a group of people chanting rather unflattering, government-critical slogans was approached by the police. One of the officers, fully masked, ordered the men to step back. When they refused to do so, he pushed one of them and sprayed him in the face with tear gas.

 

Officers pulled one demonstrator out of the group and handcuffed several others. Another protester received a fine. - They handcuffed me, my wrists are still red - said a local resident who was at the site. - I said I couldn't see anything, and asked whether could I wipe my eyes with something, but the officer said no and threatened me with a taser.

On Monday afternoon, regional Police Headquarters in Bydgoszcz issued a statement defending the use of direct coercive measures during the event, arguing that the recording from the officer's body camera "leaves no doubt as to the actions of the police officers".

The police had also filed a report of a suspected offense of insulting police officers with "a request for the prosecutor to initiate ex officio proceedings".

Senator Krzysztof Brejza and MP Magdalena Łośko from the Civic Coalition asked the Chief of Police to "inspect the use of tear gas against people who were not allowed to participate in the meeting with Jarosław Kaczyński in Inowrocław". - We also ask about the use of special police units to secure a closed political rally of the Law and Justice party - they said.

Opposition MPs also sent a request for intervention to the Commissioner for Human Rights concerning police abuse of power.

The Mayor of Inowrocław, Ryszard Brejza, has filed a notice to the Inowrocław District Prosecutor's Office about the possibility of committing a crime. "I don't agree with this kind of actions, which in my opinion may constitute a violation of law and abuse of police authority" - he wrote in his statement.

Mariusz Kaminńki, the Minister of Interior, spoke out on the Inowrocław incident on Tuesday. "Insulting a police officer is a crime. There can be no consent to attacking uniformed officers. The strong reaction of a police officer in Inowrocław was justified and understandable" – he wrote on Twitter.

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