Donald Tusk returned to Polish politics on Saturday, aiming to revive the fortunes of the struggling opposition and to dethrone the ruling Conservative-Nationalist Law and Justice Party.
Poland must hold parliamentary elections by 2023 at the latest and Tusk, who resigned as Polish Prime Minister in 2014 to become President of the European Council, said he returned to victory for Civic Platform, the center-right party he co-founded two decades ago.
“I came back to 100%,” Tusk said at a party reunion on Saturday. “My conviction [is] this civic platform is needed, not as a step backwards, but as a force to overcome law and justice in the battle for the future. “
Under Tusk’s leadership, the Civic Platform became the dominant force in Polish politics, winning the 2007 and 2011 elections, the first time since the collapse of communism that an incumbent government has been re-elected.
But his fortune was declining when he swapped Warsaw for Brussels in 2014, with the party undermined by a scandal on secret recordings of comments by some of his personalities, and accused of having lost sight of the concerns of less well-off Poles.
In the meantime, Law and Justice, led by Tusk’s big rival Jaroslaw Kaczynski, has won a series of local, national and European awards. elections, thanks in part to generous social policies, including its flagship product family allowance program, a higher minimum wage, and more money for retirees.
But it has also put Warsaw on a collision course with Brussels, pushing through judicial changes that the European Commission sees as fundamental. threat to the rule of law, putting pressure on independent media and resorting to attacks on the LGBT movement to ignite his constituents.
In recent months, Droit et Justice, which reigns in coalition with two smaller groups, has been torn by infighting between its moderate and hard wings. Last week, three MPs left to form their own group, depriving the coalition of its formal parliamentary majority, although analysts say it may still be able to concoct majorities on key votes.
In his speech at the Civic Platform meeting – in which he replaced Borys Budka as party leader – Tusk took aim at Law and Justice’s record, accusing it of being bad and of promoting the goal. of Russian President Vladimir Putin to divide Europe by his clashes. with Brussels.
“The harm done by law and justice is so obvious, is so shameless, is so permanent, it happens in almost every case,” he said. “Contempt for minorities, brutal and vulgar authoritarian tendencies, aversion to all freedoms. . . Permanent attacks against the EU. This is Putin’s program, one-on-one.
Yet despite Law and Justice’s clashes with Brussels and tensions in the ruling camp, Tusk faces a daunting task to revive the fortune of Civic Platform. Support for the party has fallen to 16% in recent polls, leaving it behind Law and Justice and Poland 2050, Szymon Holownia’s new centrist party.
There is also a generational divide in the Civic Platform. Rafal Trzaskowski, the popular mayor of Warsaw, who ran for the Civic Platform candidate last year presidential election, made it clear earlier this week that he was prepared to run against Tusk for the party leadership, if he were to hold internal elections.
“I think Tusk will be able to bring Civic Platform down to over 20% in the polls, and I think that will happen quickly, which will give him something to build on,” said Wojciech Szacki, political expert. at Polityka. Insight, a Warsaw-based think tank.
“But I don’t think it will be enough to overtake Law and Justice in the polls. I think there is a cap above Tusk’s head. Poland has changed since he left. A lot of people don’t like what the Civic Platform did when it was in power, and others don’t remember.