On December 13th , Poland brought an end to eight years of right-wing rule when Donald Tusk was sworn into office by Polish President Andrzej Duda. Despite the ruling Law and Justice or PiS (Prawo i Sprawiedliwość) party winning the most seats in the October 15th elections, they did not have a majority and failed to form a coalition with any opposition party.

Donald Tusk’s Civic Coalition party formally agreed upon a coalition with the centre-right ‘Third Way’ and ‘The Left’ parties on November 10th. The Third way is made up of the Poland 2050 party and Polish People’s Party. The Left is the New Left and Left Together parties, which was formed after the 2019 parliamentary elections.

Given the two month delay of Tusk’s official swearing-in as Prime Minister, PiS critics have accused Duda of ‘dragging his feet’ to give the party time to re-elect PiS loyalists to key government roles, some with fixed terms, making them harder for Tusk to replace.

As a veteran of EU politics, Donald Tusk represents a return to a more centrist Poland; although his three-group coalition contains a range of political stances, from socially liberal left to conservative centre-right.

Most EU leaders have welcomed his return as a familiar face in politics and a less belligerent partner than the PiS, who opposed EU migration initiatives to host migrants and more recently demanded reparations from Germany for World War II.

Voters may feel differently, however – a poll conducted by the Polish newspaper Rzeczpospolita found 30% of Poles thought Tusk would be a ‘Terrible’ prime minister, with only 10% thinking he would be ‘Excellent’.

Although Tusk claims that his election ‘saved Polish democracy’, his premiership faces other challenges, namely, to change legislation on abortion, LGBTQ+ rights and migration.

In a bid to promote Catholic values and bolster falling fertility rates, the PiS ended state funding for IVF and made emergency contraception require a prescription, as well as arresting and prosecuting LGBT activists. As a result, NGO’s and Human Rights groups worldwide are looking to Tusk’s coalition for cultural, as well as political, reform.

Many of Tusk’s campaign pledges focused on increasing social spending, such as his promises to increase teacher’s pay by 30% and giving public sector employees a 20% pay rise. He has also promised to separate the church and state, calling bishops ‘government functionaries’. The Catholic church in Poland has become increasingly interwoven with politics in recent years and faced criticism for letting PiS leader Jarosław Kaczyński make a political speech during a memorial mass held for his mother in 2021.

Tusk has spoken on reaffirming his support for Ukraine and been scathing of European leaders who speak about being ‘tired’ of the conflict. He also aims to unlock funding withheld by Brussels due to unease about the independence of the judiciary and rule of law in Poland, a concern held by the European Commission since the PiS took power in 2015. Approximately €60 billion in pandemic recovery assistance provided by the EU has been frozen since 2021.

Edited By: Christina Major (News Editor)


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