News & Analysis

Elżbieta Witek made speaker of Polish parliament

Poland’s minister of the interior and administration, Elżbieta Witek, has been chosen by MPs as the new speaker of the country’s parliament, the Sejm. She replaces Marek Kuchciński, who resigned on August 7 over claims that he and his family had used a government jet for personal trips.

Mrs Witek has herself not always been cautious about how taxpayers’ money is spent, with a now infamous 460-kilometre taxi trip being covered by the Chancellery of the Sejm. Her political experience is also questionable. A schoolteacher for 25 years before becoming an MP for the Law and Justice party in 2005, she was by her own admission surprised to have been named minister of the interior in June, saying at the time that she didn’t know much about the ministry but was able to learn fast.

“The prime minister must have seen something in me that will help me fulfill my mission.  This is a difficult ministry but I have quite a broad political experience and my skills enabled me to receive this appointment,” she added.

The speaker (officially known as marshal) of the Sejm is constitutionally the second most important role in the Polish state. Should the president die in office or be otherwise unable to fulfill his duties, the speaker takes his place. This last happened in April 2010 when Bronisław Komorowski took the reins following the death of Lech Kaczyński.

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