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Polish govt says it’s confident of majority on contested media reform bill

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Poland‘s government said on Wednesday it believed it could still command a majority in parliament after firing the head of a junior coalition partner ahead of a crucial vote on media ownership rules that will test its stability, according to Reuters. 

The dismissal of Jaroslaw Gowin, head of the centre-right Accord party, from the post of deputy prime minister on Tuesday signalled the disintegration of a coalition that has ruled Poland since 2015 and created uncertainty about whether it can continue to function.

The coalition, led by the nationalist Law and Justice (PiS) party, has been on a collision course with Brussels over a range of core issues including the rule of law and press freedoms.

Government spokesman Piotr Muller said he believed the United Right alliance could still govern and pass a media bill on Wednesday that has been strongly criticised by the United States.

“I am counting on it that questions related to the media law will gain a majority in parliament and I am sure that the United Right government will continue to function because there are people in parliament from Accord and outside Accord who want to support the government,” spokesman Piotr Muller told public broadcaster Polskie Radio 1.

Gowin’s opposition to tax reforms contained in the government’s flagship Polish Deal economic programme had been key to Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki‘s decision to request his dismissal, Muller said on Tuesday.

Accord announced officially on Wednesday that it was leaving the United Right coalition.

On Wednesday, lawmakers will vote on an amendment to the Broadcasting Act that would strengthen a ban on non-European firms controlling Polish broadcasters.

While Law and Justice (PiS), the largest party in government, says it wants to stop countries such as Russia and China from taking control of Polish broadcasters, critics say it aims to gag TVN24, Poland’s most popular news channel that has been often critical of the government, and whose licence expires on Sept. 26.

Accord had opposed the amendment to the Broadcasting Act in its current form.

TVN24 is owned by U.S. media giant Discovery, and the vote threatens to sour relations with Washington and deepen concern in the European Union over democratic standards in the bloc’s east.

Issues such as judicial independence and LGBT rights have brought Poland and its main ally in the EU, Hungary, into conflict with Brussels.