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Polish Prime Minister Beata Szydlo Resigns

Poland’s Prime Minister Beata Szydlo resigned on Thursday, with Finance Minister Mateusz Morawiecki nominated to replace her.


Drew Hinshaw

Poland’s Prime Minister Beata Szydlo resigned on Thursday, with Finance Minister Mateusz Morawiecki nominated to replace her.

The ruling party, Law and Justice, had long discussed changing prime ministers before the end of this year—the midpoint in parliament’s four-year term—in a bid to revitalize its posture ahead of local elections next year and legislative elections in 2019.

There would be other no immediate cabinet changes in the government Ms. Szydlo has led since November 2015, a Law and Justice spokeswoman said.

The change in leadership elevates Mr. Morawiecki, a former economics lecturer and banker who presided over an increase in social spending during his two years as finance minister. Under Mr. Morawiecki, the government allowed Poles to claim retirement benefits as early as age 6o and launched a monthly welfare stipend of 500 zloty ($140) per child for many Polish families. The latter program, which aims to boost Poland’s population, has fueled the ruling party’s commanding lead in opinion surveys, pollsters say.

More recently, however, Mr. Morawiecki has expressed concerns to other cabinet ministers about the long-term effect of those popular measures on Poland’s budget deficit, according to two of his advisers. The deficit was last projected at 2.6% of gross domestic product for this year.

In coming days, Law and Justice is set to push through enormous changes to the country’s judicial and electoral laws. About a third of the country’s Supreme Court judges will be forced to retire almost immediately, easing the promotion of several younger judges the ruling party considers more amenable to its conservative, nationalist program. Under the legislation, parliament, where Law and Justice holds an absolute majority, would also win a greater say in appointing future judges, including to a new chamber of the court that would oversee election-related issues.

Mr. Morawiecki has voiced support for those bills, even as the European Union is weighing legal proceedings against Poland on the grounds that the judiciary overhaul violates the union’s rule-of-law standards.

At the same time, Mr. Morawiecki may help mend Poland’s frayed ties with the EU, some analysts said. The English- and German-speaking banker once served as an economics adviser to Donald Tusk, a former Polish prime minister who is now of the EU’s European Council.

Mr. Morawiecki only last year joined the ruling party, whose leaders have accused the EU of meddling with Poland’s democratic institutions and has been critical of its decisions on migrant quotas and other issues.