Polish ruling coalition “is over” following rebellion on animal rights law

Poland's ruling right-wing coalition was on the brink of collapse on Friday, with leaders mulling a minority government or fresh elections after MPs broke ranks over the adoption of a controversial animal rights bill, AFP reports

"Any option is now possible -- both a minority government and early elections," Piotr Muller, spokesman for the right-wing United Right government led by the dominant Law and Justice (PiS) party, told local media.

Senior PiS party politician Marek Suski went a step further, telling the commercial TVN24 news channel that "our coalition partners ended the coalition" when they broke ranks on the animal rights law.

"As of today, we have a minority government," he said, adding "our former coalition partners should be clearing their desks."

A PiS spokeswoman told the Onet news website that the "party leaders would meet next week to decide about the future of the government".

Poland's next regularly scheduled parliamentary elections are due in 2023.

But parliament on Friday passed a controversial animal rights bill that divided the right-wing governing alliance.

Two junior partners in the three-party ruling coalition refused to vote in favour, provoking the ire of Jaroslaw Kaczynski, the powerful PiS leader who put forward the legislation.

Kaczynski, who is known for his love of cats, has threatened to exclude his coalition partners from the government during a planned cabinet reshuffle or even call snap elections.

A possible minority PiS government would control 197 seats in the 460-seat lower house.

Some analysts and opposition politicians in Warsaw say the political fireworks are part of high-stakes negotiations between the dominant PiS and its two junior alliance partners, the United Poland party which controls 19 seats and the Agreement party, with 18 seats, over the cabinet reshuffle.

Tensions flared in recent weeks when PiS threatened to halve the number of ministries controlled by its two partners.

The controversial PiS-authored animal rights bill was adopted with the support of the liberal opposition, mustering 356 votes in favour, 75 against and 18 abstentions at an overnight session of parliament.

The measure, which still requires the approval of the senate, bans the breeding of animals for fur and stops exports of halal and kosher meat.

Poland is the world's third biggest fur producer after China and Denmark, according to activists, and a major exporter of kosher meat to Israel and Jewish communities in Europe.

The measure had drawn criticism in the countryside -- a key electoral base for the PiS -- and experts quoted by Gazeta Wyborcza said the economic impact would be around 1.6 billion euros ($1.9 billion).

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