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Poland’s ruling coalition frays on eve of key media vote

image sourceAFP

image captionThousands of protesters demonstrated against proposed changes to Poland’s media

Poland’s coalition government has been thrown into disarray, after the prime minister sacked his deputy on Tuesday.

It comes on the eve of a key vote on a draft media law that critics say is an attempt to silence a TV channel critical of the government.

Former Deputy PM Jaroslaw Gowin – who opposes the law change – leads a junior partner in the United Right coalition that has ruled since 2015.

Meanwhile thousands of people have been protesting against the draft law.

The government said Mr Gowin had “undermined confidence” in its actions.

His party, Agreement, has been increasingly at odds with its senior coalition partner, Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki’s Law and Justice (PiS) party.

Mr Gowin has criticised the coalition’s flagship economic programme, claiming it would lead to tax increases for the middle class.

And he opposes the changes to Poland’s broadcasting law, which he says “clearly violates the principle of media freedom”.

Thousands of demonstrators took to the streets in towns and cities across Poland on Tuesday in protest.

A crowd gathered outside the parliament in Warsaw, where MPs are due to debate the bill on Wednesday, and rallies were held in Krakow, Wroclaw, Poznan, Lublin and Szczecin.

The government says the law – which blocks non-European firms from owning Polish media companies – is needed to stop hostile foreign powers taking control of its broadcasters.

But opponents say it is an attempt to push US company Discovery to sell the country’s biggest TV network, TVN.

Mr Gowin said his dismissal was “the de facto rupture of the governing coalition and the de facto end of United Right”.

He said his party would vote on Wednesday on whether to stay in the coalition. Should his party’s MPs vote to quit the coalition, that would leave the government without a majority in parliament.

But a government spokesman said he thought the law would still pass.

“I am convinced that there will be people in the United Right and in the rest of the Polish Parliament who will support the beneficial reforms that we have proposed,” he said.

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