July 25, 2021

Former European Council President Donald Tusk takes over as leader of the main opposition party

Donald Tusk is back on the Polish political scene. The former President of the European Council became, on Saturday 3 July, the leader of the opposition Civic Platform (PO) party in Poland. After the resignation of the party chairman, Borys Budka, “The tasks of president of the PO are assumed by Donald Tusk”, declared the spokesperson Jan Grabiec, after a meeting of the national council of the party. Mr Tusk elected the party’s vice-chairman, which means he takes over as chairman until a formal election for the post scheduled for later this year.

Aged 64, Donald Tusk takes over the reins of the center-right party he co-founded in 2001, after having been Prime Minister of his country between 2007 and 2014 and President of the European Council between 2014 and 2019. During this last period, he had to participate in the management of the migrant crisis, the economic situation in Greece and the difficult Brexit negotiations.

The PiS “demon”

He currently holds the presidency of the European People’s Party (EPP) and often acts as a scathing behind-the-scenes commentator on Polish politics.

Before a party convention that gave him a standing ovation on Saturday, Donald Tusk claimed to be “Back to 100%”. In his speech, he mentioned ” the demon “ about of the ruling Nationalist Conservative Party, Law and Justice (PiS), accusing him of placing Poland in a “Dangerous situation” by creating dissensions with its partners in the European Union. “When we see the demon, we fight it”, he said.

Uncertainty arose in the run-up to the PO congress after Warsaw mayor Rafal Trzaskowski, a finalist in last year’s presidential election, said he was ready to take the lead. According to media reports, Mr. Trzaskowski has since backed down and will no longer contest Mr. Tusk’s candidacy for the leadership of the party. “The Civic Platform will be great again”, tweeted party MP Robert Tyszkiewicz after Mr. Tusk was elected.

Poland in “complete isolation”

The PO is in third position in the polls, behind the PiS and the centrist opposition party Poland 2050. At the same time, the PiS has lost its narrow majority in Parliament and relations with the EU are deteriorating on a number of issues, including over controversial judicial reforms. Mr Tusk said PiS chief Jaroslaw Kaczynski led Poland into a “Complete isolation” on the international scene.

Elections in Poland are scheduled for 2023 but commentators say the ruling party could be tempted by early elections to avoid a vote of no confidence in parliament. The PiS is also holding its own congress on Saturday, which should confirm Mr. Kaczynski as its head. The party is also expected to approve the appointment of Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki, 53, as deputy leader, making him the heir apparent to veteran Kaczynski, aged 72.

A new poll taken earlier this week shows that the ruling right-wing coalition, dominated by PiS, leads with 34% support, followed by Poland 2050 with 17.1% and PO with 16.9%. The study was carried out by the Ibris polling institute for the Polsat television channel.

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The World with AFP