Warsaw, 9 October 2011. Polish prime minister Donald Tusk (l), alongside his wife, addresses supporters after announcing exit poll results of the parliamentary elections.

Poland - no honeymoon for re-elected Tusk

Donald Tusk looks likely to become the first Prime Minister in Poland’s post-communist history to win a second term in office. The Polish press hails the victory of his ruling Civic Platform party, but warns of difficult times ahead.

Published on 10 October 2011 at 13:39
Warsaw, 9 October 2011. Polish prime minister Donald Tusk (l), alongside his wife, addresses supporters after announcing exit poll results of the parliamentary elections.

With 99.5% of the votes counted after the October 9 general election, Poland’s centre right Civic Platform (PO) is firmly in the lead with a 39.19% support ahead of Jarosław Kaczyński’s populist Law and Justice (PiS) on 29.88%. Surprisingly, the third power in the new Sejm (Polish parliament) will be the left wing, anticlerical, pro-gay Palikot Movement (RP) that has clinched 10,01% of the vote. Fourth comes the Polish People’s Party (PSL, literally Polish Peasants’ Party) on 8.36%. With only 8.25%, the post-communist Democratic Left Alliance have polled poorly. If these results hold, Poland may be in for another four years of a PO-PSL coalition.

For this Gazeta Wyborcza leader:


It was not a triumph, it was a victory [...] yet again those who want a modern and open Poland have won. [...] Poles have rejected the PiS madness and trusted the predictable Civic Platform. They believe it will rise to the challenge of the difficult times that are coming. It is a huge responsibility. – Gazeta Wyborcza

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For conservative daily Rzeczpospolita, Civic Platform’s success is partly due to the eccentricities of opposition leader Jarosław Kaczyński, who in the election run-up, opaquely remarked that Angela Merkel’s election as German chancellor was “not pure coincidence”, which for a Polish audience suggested that the East German Stasi had brought her to power. The PiS leader was also reluctant to hold a public debate with PM Tusk:


PiS has not managed to remove the label of it being a radical and unpredictable party [which is why] voters have clearly reached a conclusion that despite all its flaws and weaknesses, PO will guarantee stability... [The] voters appreciated that the general standard of living either has increased or, compared to other European countries, has fallen only slightly. But first of all they voted as they did because Tusk is not Jarosław Kaczyński. – Rzeczpospolita

Meanwhile business daily Dziennik Gazeta Prawna hopes that Donald Tusk will finish what he started and will not resort to “excuses” to further postpone cuts to the public sector:


There is no alibi. PO is the first party since 1989 to hang on to power. There can’t be any pretending that the president is wrong, the opposition too pestering, that we need to wait with the reforms because the political situation is uncertain. One can change and fix a country in 8 years. It will depend on Tusk’s courage whether we will respect him in four years time. – Dziennik Gazeta Prawna

Political scientist Aleksander Smolar seconds the business daily stressing in an interview with Gazeta Wyborcza that -


... a mere fact that one party won re-election can’t be interpreted as a historic success. It is just a chance, a blank cheque issued by a large part of the Polish society in Tusk and PO’s name. – Gazeta Wyborcza

The biggest surprise of the Sunday election was by far an excellent result obtained by the recently founded Palikot Movement.”We could call it a miracle if it wasn’t for the fact that we don’t believe in God”, quipped RP’s spokesman Robert Leszczyński after the first estimate results were announced. Janusz Palikot, the movement’s founder and former PO member, has managed to mobilise gay activists (the first transsexual will enter the Sejm [Polish parliament] on the party’s list), feminists and all those disenchanted with the political establishment. While warning that Palikot’s programme is “painfully laconic” and his team “a hodgepodge of people”, Gazeta Wyborcza notes that -


Many people angry or disgusted with dumb traditionalism, intolerance and patriarchal customs, have found in him their spokesman. He was also supported by those who no longer trust politicians and are looking for some hope of improvement. – Gazeta Wyborcza

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