WARSAW, Poland — Polish Prime Minister Beata Szydlo sent a tweet early Tuesday that seems to read like a farewell and comes amid rumors in Warsaw that she might be replaced by Finance Minister Mateusz Morawiecki next week.
If the change takes place, the ruling Law and Justice party would take the political risk of unseating one of the country’s most popular leaders, the 54-year-old coal miner’s daughter and mother of a priest whose patriotic and conservative image found wide acceptance in this mostly Catholic country.
In her place they would gain a younger former banker with less folksy appeal but with the languages and international corporate experience that could help ease tensions with the European Union.
There had been rumors for weeks in the Polish media that party leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski could become the next prime minister though now Polish reports suggest the most likely new leader will be Morawiecki, a deputy prime minister who is also the minister for development and finance.
Kaczynski is widely seen as the real power behind the government, guiding its decisions from his party headquarters in Warsaw and from his seat in parliament where he serves as one of 460 members of the lower house, or Sejm. It is not clear if Morawiecki could take an independent path or if he would also largely follow the direction Kaczynski sets.
Szydlo said on Twitter shortly after midnight: “Regardless of everything the most important thing is Poland. One that takes care of family and values (and is) safe. That grew from the foundation of Christian values, tolerant and open. Modern and ambitious. That is my country. An example for Europe and the world. That’s who we Poles are.”
The daily newspaper Rzeczpospolita reported Tuesday, citing unnamed sources, that Kaczynski has presented to party members his plan for Morawiecki to take the helm of the Cabinet next week.
Morawiecki, 49, has won praise for overseeing an economy that has boomed in the two years since the Law and Justice party took power. He is widely considered one of the government’s most competent members and has the trust of Kaczynski.
He is a former international banker who ran a local bank controlled by Spain’s Santander before Law and Justice won power, in many ways an unlikely background for someone who now has a leadership role in a nationalist party that seeks to limit foreign influence and global capitalism in the country.
While the ruling Law and Justice party and Szydlo herself are both popular among Poles, Morawiecki could be better prepared to represent the country internationally as Poland faces off against the EU over legal changes seen as attacks on the rule of law.
Morawiecki speaks English and German and has international experience from his years as a banker, while Szydlo has limited English.
Igor Janke, the head of the Freedom Institute in Warsaw, said on Twitter that Morawiecki would be a good choice for two reasons — “unblocking relations with Brussels” and winning votes in the political center now that the party has guaranteed support on the right.
But government critics saw the discussion as a smoke screen as the ruling party prepares to pass controversial bills in the coming days on the judiciary and over the electoral system which they see as eroding democracy.
Marcin Zaborowski, an analyst with Visegrad Insight, said Law and Justice “is changing the electoral regulation and finalizing an attack on independent courts, but the theme that dominates in the media is a completely irrelevant government reshuffle which will change nothing.”
Morawiecki was due to attend a meeting of EU finance ministers in Brussels Tuesday, but his office said he would not go “due to current issues.”
Monika Scislowska in Warsaw contributed to this report.