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Poland's Ruling Party Announces Makeup of Cabinet

Leader of Poland's conservative Law and Justice party Jaroslaw Kaczynski (l) listens, as candidate for the prime minister's post Beata Szydlo announces names for the new government in Warsaw, Poland, Nov. 9, 2015.

Poland’s conservative Law and Justice party announced Monday the make-up of its new government, with a moderate as prime minister but a lineup of ministers that reflects a deeply ideological world view that is very pro-American and suspicious of Russia.

Party leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski announced that Beata Szydlo will be prime minister as expected. The party won power in a parliamentary election Oct. 25 with Szydlo as the party’s candidate.

Standing alongside Kaczynski at the party headquarters in Warsaw, Szydlo then named the members of her Cabinet, which must next be approved and sworn in by President Andrzej Duda. A date for that has not been set yet, but it is expected to happen soon after the outgoing government steps down and the newly elected parliament convenes for the first time, both of which are happening Thursday.

Many of the government members also served in the last Law and Justice government, from 2005 to 2007. It was a time marked by a determined effort to purge the country of corruption and the influence of former communists.

But critics accused Kaczynski and his allies of taking things too far, sometimes abandoning due process in their zeal to clean up the country and at other times using secret services against their political opponents.

Szydlo said the new foreign minister will be Witold Waszczykowski, a pro-American former deputy foreign minister who had a key role in negotiating a Bush-era plan for Poland to host a U.S. missile defense base. That plan was canceled by President Barack Obama, to the deep disappointment of Waszczykowski and many others in Poland.

The defense minister will be Antoni Macierewicz, perhaps the most controversial member of the new government. Macierewicz is a former deputy defense minister who purged the country’s military intelligence agency of any former communist influences, liquidating it and releasing the names of agents, some with ties to Moscow. To his supporters it was a long-due reckoning with the continued influence of Russia in this former communist state. But critics say his efforts went too far and weakened the country’s security services.

Macierewicz is also deeply controversial in Poland for his theory that the plane crash in Russia in 2010 that killed President Lech Kaczynski and dozens of other state officials was not an accident. He favors the theory that it was an assassination and believes there could have been a bomb on the plane. He has led a parliamentary commission that for years has been trying to prove that theory. Official state investigations in Russia and Poland have declared the disaster an accident.

Another controversial nomination is that of Mariusz Kaminski, a former head of the Central Anti-Corruption Bureau, to be the coordinator of special services, overseeing police and intelligence agencies. Kaminski was convicted of abusing his power in 2007 as head of the anti-corruption body and was slapped recently with a three-year suspended sentence. He has appealed.

“This does not pose a problem for us; he always fought against corruption,” Szydlo said.

Zbigniew Ziobro, a former justice minister who developed a reputation for being overzealous in his attempts to fight corruption, return to head that ministry after an eight-year break.