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UPDATE 1-Polish ruling coalition has a future, says junior partner amid squabbles

21 Sep 2020 / 20:23 H.

    (Recasts with justice minister's statement)

    WARSAW, Sept 21 (Reuters) - Poland's ruling right-wing coalition should remain united, the leader of a junior partner in the alliance said on Monday, attempting to smooth tensions that threaten to wreck the government and trigger a snap election.

    Zbigniew Ziobro, who is also Poland's justice minister, spoke as leaders of the largest party in the coalition, Law and Justice (PiS), held an emergency meeting that lawmakers say could end in a split amid policy disagreements.

    "I believe the United Right coalition is good... I am convinced that this project has a big future ahead of it and can do a lot of good for Poland," Ziobro told a news conference.

    Tensions have recently approached boiling point as Ziobro's ultra-conservative United Poland party demands a tougher stance against gay rights and the European Union's climate policy.

    PiS, which has argued for a more pragmatic stance towards the EU, was infuriated by the failure of Ziobro's party to support an animal rights bill last week that passed with the help of opposition parties.

    Ziobro's party has also criticised government plans to give officials immunity from prosecution for decisions taken to fight the coronavirus pandemic.

    Ziobro, architect of judicial reforms that have put Poland on a collision course with Brussels, said his party was ready for further talks on the animal rights and immunity legislation.

    A top PiS official, Krzysztof Sobolewski, said a minority government and then snap election were a possible outcome.

    "Today the situation is that there is no coalition and we will be discussing within PiS what's next. All scenarios are on the table," he told public radio.

    The PiS-led coalition holds 235 of the 460 seats in the lower house and would lose its majority without United Poland, which has 17 seats.

    If a snap election were held now, opinion polls show PiS would fall short of a majority and its two smaller coalition partners would fail to meet the threshold to win seats. (Reporting by Agnieszka Barteczko, Anna Wodarczak-Semczuk, Alan Charlish and Alicja Ptak Editing by Gareth Jones)

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