Polish Sejm holds inaugural sitting, elects speaker

Witek thanked all MPs and stressed the election was, for her, "a distinction and an obligation." Radek Pietruszka/PAP

The Sejm (lower house of parliament) during its inaugural sitting on Tuesday elected Elżbieta Witek from the ruling party Law and Justice (PiS) as Sejm speaker. She was the only candidate for the post.

There were 314 votes supporting Witek, 11 against and 134 abstentions. Her candidature was supported by PiS, the Democratic Left Alliance (SLD) and the Polish People's Party (PSL). Civic Coalition MPs refrained from voting, while Konfederacja (Confederation) deputies voted against.

Witek thanked all MPs and stressed the election was, for her, "a distinction and an obligation."

"I am honoured, since my candidature was also supported by MPs from other caucuses," she said, declaring that she would do her best, so that all deputies could have calm and dignified conditions to present their opinions.

Witek held the post of Sejm speaker in the previous term of office from August, when she replaced Marek Kuchciński, who had resigned from the post amid controversy around his flights on government aircraft, including flights with his relatives on board.

The inaugural meeting of the lower house was opened by Senior Speaker, former Defence Minister Antoni Macierewicz. Addressing the gathering, Macierewicz stressed that "there is no freedom and democracy outside independence, and that independence has only one shape, while slavery has many." He also stressed that "the Polish people have always been aware of the fact that independence is the fundamental condition for implementing all national values."

Referring to the composition of the new Sejm, Macierewicz underlined that "no lower house since 1919 has ever represented such a will of the national unity as the current one."

According to Macierewicz, "an absolute majority of Poles supported those groupings, which unequivocally support national, independence and Catholic values."

Macierewicz's speech was praised by Jacek Sasin of the ruling party and sharply criticised by all opposition caucuses. Civic Platform leader Grzegorz Schetyna described it as politicised and aggressive.

Later, the lower house was addressed by President Andrzej Duda. His speech was followed by an oath-taking ceremony for the 460 newly elected MPs.

Having elected the new Sejm speaker, the lower house decided to have five deputy speakers. Draft resolutions to this effect were forwarded by the PiS and PO caucuses, and supported by 410 MPs, with nine votes against and one abstention.

In the evening, the Sejm elected five deputy speakers, namely, Democratic Left Alliance (SLD) leader Włodzimierz Czarzasty, Małgorzata Kidawa-Błońska (KO), Piotr Zgorzelski of the Polish People's Party-Polish Coalition caucus, and Ryszard Terlecki and Małgorzata Gosiewska of the ruling PiS.

In the October 13 elections to the Sejm (lower house), PiS received 43.59 percent of the vote and its main contender, the Civic Coalition won 27.4 percent.