Expectations are enormous for Donland Tusk’s future government, but populist nationalists will remain a powerful opposition force.
Poland is set to have a new government on Monday, with the likely failure of its minority nationalist government to survive a parliamentary vote.
Donald Tusk, head of a pro-European alliance, is expected to become Poland’s prime minister this week, almost two months after the election.
His appointment will conclude the eight-year rule of the Law and Justice Party (PiS).
The transition will come in several steps over three days, starting Monday. It was delayed for several weeks by the president, who chose to keep his political allies in office as long as possible.
Collective anger against the ruling PiS produced a record-high turnout in the central European country, with the right-wing populists accused of having long erroded the country’s democracy and women’s reproductive rights, while targeting Poland’s LGBT community.
Expectations are enormous for the incoming government, however. Plus populist nationalists will remain a powerful opposition force and continue to control several state institutions.
“The new government will have to fight every day because the PiS… will not give up and will continue to fight,” political analyst Jaroslaw Kuisz told the AFP news agency.
“It will be a quagmire” rather than rapid change, he claimed, with PiS having appointed allies to the judiciary and within political bodies that analysts call a “spider’s web” around the state.
Polish President Andrzej Duda – whose presidential mandate does not end until 2025 – can exercise his right to veto laws adopted by parliament. He is a PiS ally.
A change of government holds implications for Ukraine and the EU as well.
Tusk, a past EU leader, is expected to improve Warsaw’s standing in Brussels. His leadership will boost centrist, pro-EU forces at a time when euroskeptics, such as Geert Wilders in the Netherlands, are gaining strength.
Poland’s outgoing nationalist government was initially one of Kyiv’s strongest allies after Russia invaded Ukraine last year. However, ties have worsened as economic competition from Ukrainian food producers and truckers has angered Poles who say their livelihoods are threatened.
A blockade by Polish truckers at the border with Ukraine counts among the many problems Tusk will have to tackle immediately.
The next days will be packed with political steps dictated by the Constitution.
The Tusk-led alliance won a clear majority of seats in the 15 October vote, but President Duda gave incumbent prime minister, Mateusz Morawiecki, the first chance at forming a government, widely seen as a delaying tactic.
The PiS used these two extra months of power “to strengthen itself institutionally and financially”, said analyst Kuisz.
The right-wingers appointed their representatives at the head of different institutions, with often irrevocable mandates, alongside the national prosecutor’s office and around 150 new judges.
Morawiecki must present a new government to the Sejm, Poland’s parliament, on Monday, which will be followed by a vote of confidence. He seems doomed to failure.
The Sejm then will nominate its own candidate, expected to be Tusk, who will present his government on Tuesday. After intense negotiations between prospective coalition partners, a cabinet has already been agreed.
Parliament should then elect Tusk as head of a new government that same day.
Made up of the Citizen Coalition (centrist), the Third Way (Christian Democrat) and the Left, Tusk’s coalition has 248 deputies, compared to 194 from PiS and 18 others from the Confederation (far right).
Tusk intends to be able to represent his country at the next European summit, Thursday and Friday in Brussels.