Poland’s governing alliance thrown into crisis over animal rights

Law and Justice (PiS) leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski and other parliamentarians attend the Polish Parliament session in Warsaw, Poland September 17, 2020. Slawomir Kaminski/Agencja Gazeta via REUTERS

WARSAW (Reuters) – Poland’s governing alliance was thrown into disarray on Thursday as disagreements over an animal rights bill brought talks on overhauling ministries to a halt and raised the prospect of early elections if no agreement is found.

Tensions between ruling nationalists Law and Justice (PiS) and their ultra-conservative junior partner United Poland spilled into the open after the smaller party signalled it would not support a bill that would ban fur farming and the ritual slaughter of animals, saying it would alienate rural voters.

Poland produces millions of furs a year, and the sector employs about 50,000 people. The country is also one of the biggest European exporters of halal and kosher meat, with 2017 shipments of more than 70,000 tonnes.

“Negotiations…. have been suspended due to the situation we have in the Sejm (parliament),” said PiS lawmaker and Deputy Parliament Speaker Ryszard Terlecki.

Talks had been underway between PiS, United Poland and a third alliance partner Accord over plans to reduce the number of ministries, potentially concentrating power in the hands of PiS.

Asked about ruling as a minority government without United Poland, Terlecki said this would not be possible.

“If that happens, we’ll go to elections. Alone, of course.”

In 2007 PiS decided to go for early elections and lost power, making the party well aware of the risks of such a move.

The animal rights bill at the heart of the dispute has raised fears of losing the government support in its rural heartlands, and has been seen as a move to appeal to younger voters.

It has even proved divisive within the PiS and been openly criticised by PiS’s Agriculture Minister Jan Krzysztof Ardanowski.

Hundreds protested against the fur farming ban in Warsaw on Wednesday.

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