Poland’s new cabinet includes a convict, a conspiracy theorist, and an anti-IVF crusader

Beata Szydło, the new prime minister, and the éminence grise Jarosław Kaczyński.
Beata Szydło, the new prime minister, and the éminence grise Jarosław Kaczyński.
Image: Reuters/Kacper Pempel
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Poland’s right-wing Law and Justice party won the country’s October parliamentary election in a landslide, securing an outright majority that gave it free rein to form a government without any coalition partners. Today (Nov. 9) the party unveiled its new cabinet, and it’s extremely conservative, notably anti-Russian, and features several controversial comebacks—including the country’s most famous conspiracy theorist.

Here are some highlights/lowlights, depending on your Polish political affiliation:

Antoni Macierewicz is the new minister of defense. A former member of Poland’s anti-Communist opposition movement and deputy defense minister, Macierewicz is known for his zealous efforts to purge Polish military intelligence forces of any post-Communist influences, a campaign which critics have said went too far when he publicly outed a number of agents.

In more recent years, he has been the main champion of a theory that a plane crash that killed 96 Poles in 2010, including the president, was in fact a Russian-led assassination, and not an accident, as official investigations have determined. Macierewicz’s comeback has already inspired a multitude of ominous internet memes, with captions such as “Release the Kraken” or “Honey, I’m home!”

Jarosław Gowin is the new minister of science and higher education. Gowin is known as the primary anti in-vitro fertilization crusader in Poland. He said once in an interview with leading daily Gazeta Wyborcza: ”A politician must find in himself a love for the people whom he serves. In my case, since I’ve taken up in vitro, it’s love for embryos frozen in nitrogen. I know you think I’m exaggerating, but sometimes I really feel like their foster father.”

Zbigniew Ziobro returns to the post of minister of justice after an eight year hiatus. Investigative journalist Wojciech Czuchnowski says his name is a “symbol of the abuse of power in the 2005-07 government,” and political impunity.

Mariusz Kamiński has been tapped to be the coordinator of special services, in which he will oversee police and intelligence agencies. He is the former head of the Central Anti-Corruption Bureau and has been convicted of abusing his power, a decision that is not legally final in Poland, and which he has appealed in court.

The new cabinet, with its many familiar names from the party’s last period in power, sparked outrage. The Polish version of Newsweek asked: “Is the new cabinet the worst version of Law and Justice?” A spokesman for the outgoing government called it “the biggest political fraud of the past 25 years,” citing a strong sense deja vu. Journalist Dominika Wielowieyska added that the nominations were an “embarrassment” and a misfortune for Poland (links in Polish).