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Poland's gov't easily survives assessment vote

Associated Press logo Associated Press 7/04/2017 By MONIKA SCISLOWSKA, Associated Press
Poland's Prime Minister Beata Szydlo, right , and the powerful ruling party leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski, second left, are taking a vote in parliament on the future of the government, in Warsaw , Poland, Friday, April 7, 2017. The government, which has a majority among lawmakers, easily survived the no-confidence vote, despite criticism by the opposition that it was taking Poland towards "dictatorship." (AP Photo/Czarek Sokolowski) © The Associated Press Poland's Prime Minister Beata Szydlo, right , and the powerful ruling party leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski, second left, are taking a vote in parliament on the future of the government, in Warsaw , Poland, Friday, April 7, 2017. The government, which has a majority among lawmakers, easily survived the no-confidence vote, despite criticism by the opposition that it was taking Poland towards "dictatorship." (AP Photo/Czarek Sokolowski)

WARSAW, Poland — Poland's populist government on Friday easily survived a no-confidence vote in parliament brought by the opposition, which accuses it of steering toward "dictatorship" and "Bolshevik centralization."

The vote in the lower house, or Sejm, was 238-174 with four abstentions in favor of the government of Prime Minister Beata Szydlo.

The result had been expected, given the ruling Law and Justice party's majority in the 460-member parliament.

In a debate leading to the vote, main opposition leader Grzegorz Schetyna accused the government of cutting the nation's ties with the Western world. Poland opposes many European Union policies, including that on accepting migrants, and uses every opportunity to criticize the bloc, which it joined in 2004.

It was the only one to recently oppose the re-election of former Polish premier Donald Tusk as European Council president, due to Poland's internal political feuding.

"You are systematically cutting the ties that we have with the West," Schetyna said. "You are not even trying to hide your anti-West phobias."

The Law and Justice government is under strong criticism from European Union leaders who say it is undermining Poland's rule of law and democracy. Soon after taking office in 2015 it embarked on wide remodeling, taking control of a top court and of the state media, among others. It remains at the top of opinion polls, however; observers say that is largely due to its generous program of social benefits.

"You are following a dangerous path through populism to dictatorship, we will not allow that," said Schetyna, who was his Civic Platform party's candidate for prime minister.

"We will put an end to your Bolshevik centralization of the state, we will strengthen the civic society" when Civic Platform wins power, he said.

The ruling party leader and mastermind of the government's policy, Jaroslaw Kaczynski, argued Poland needed deep change after Civic Platform rule from 2007-2015.

"We will not depart from this path," Kaczynski said.

Prime Minister Beata Szydlo used the debate to list what she called her government's achievements, and to criticize the previous government.

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