By Alan Charlish and Pawel Florkiewicz
WARSAW (Reuters) -Poland’s parliament met for the first time on Monday since an election in which an alliance of pro-European Union parties won a majority, heralding a new start for Polish politics.
President Andrzej Duda has asked Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki to form a new government, but he has almost no chance of doing so. His nationalist Law and Justice party (PiS) lost its majority in last month’s election and all other parties have ruled out working with it.
Parliament is set to draw a line under a turbulent eight-year period marked by rows with the European Union, sudden late-night votes and lawmaking sometimes so rapid that political opponents said it undercut normal parliamentary process.
“The nation has done its job, and now its representatives must repair the Republic of Poland… repair democracy,” Donald Tusk, who could be the next prime minister, told lawmakers from his Civic Coalition (KO) grouping.
Morawiecki submitted his previous government’s resignation on Monday. In a sign of the problems he faces forming a new government, all parties but PiS voted for Szymon Holownia, a representative of the centre-right Poland 2050 party, to become parliamentary speaker.
Holownia will serve until 2025 when, under a coalition agreement, the role would pass to Wlodzimierz Czarzasty of the New Left.
Outside parliament, opposition activists dismantled barriers erected during PiS’s rule to keep protesters out, a change which KO lawmaker Michal Szczerba described as “symbolic”.
PiS still hopes that Morawiecki will be able to gather a majority, but has acknowledged it is difficult.
“It will be a great success if he succeeds,” party leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski told reporters.
Turning his fire on Tusk, whom PiS has accused of being a German stooge, Kaczynski said the KO leader’s policies equated to “not only the removal of sovereignty, but the liquidation of the Polish state”, without providing details.
If Morawiecki fails, it will mean a period of cohabitation between PiS-allied President Duda and a government led by Tusk.
Duda said he would not hesitate to use his veto if he saw fit. “A possible veto cannot be an excuse for not fulfilling your election promises,” he told lawmakers.
Monday’s parliamentary session could also provide a glimpse of the challenges the coalition may face maintaining unity, after the New Left said it would submit two bills to legalise abortion.
Some left-leaning lawmakers were disappointed the opposition coalition agreement did not make a clear declaration that abortion would be available for all during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy. Centre-right lawmakers ruled out including such a commitment.
(Reporting by Alan Charlish, Pawel Florkiewicz, Anna Wlodarczak-Semczuk, Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Timothy Heritage)
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