Parliament has chosen Donald Tusk as the new prime minister. That paves the way for him to form a coalition government of three opposition groups in the coming days, ending the eight-year rule of the national-conservative Law and Justice (PiS) party.
In a vote shortly before 7 p.m. local time in the Sejm, the more powerful lower house of parliament, a majority of 248 MPs voted in favour of his candidacy, with 201 against.
The votes in favour came from Tusk’s centrist Civic Coalition (KO) and its coalition partners, the centre-right Third Way (Trzecia Droga) and The Left (Lewica). Those opposed to his candidacy were PiS, the far-right Confederation (Konfederacja) and the small right-wing Kukiz’15 group.
“Thank you Poland, this is a great day, not for me, but for all those who believed that things would get better,” Tusk told the chamber after the vote, which he described as marking a “historic change”.
— PlatformaObywatelska (@Platforma_org) December 11, 2023
Earlier in the day, Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki of PiS – which lost its parliamentary majority in October’s elections – failed to win a vote of confidence in the Sejm.
Morawiecki had been nominated as prime minister by President Andrzej Duda after those elections, as PiS was the largest single party. But after his government was rejected, the next constitutional step was for the Sejm to nominate its own candidate. Tusk’s coalition has a majority in the chamber and chose him.
Tusk is now scheduled to announce the names of his proposed cabinet members tomorrow morning and outline his government’s programme. That will be followed in the afternoon by a vote of confidence in his administration.
Should, as expected, Tusk win that vote, the final step will be for Duda to swear in his government. Tusk has expressed hope that the ceremony will take place on Wednesday, allowing him to attend a European Council gathering in Brussels on Thursday as head of Poland’s government.
Prime Minister @MorawieckiM’s government has lost a vote of confidence in parliament.
It marks the end of eight years of conservative PiS rule in Poland and paves the way for a new, more liberal administration led by @donaldtusk to take power this week https://t.co/ZPCVIK46V2
— Notes from Poland 🇵🇱 (@notesfrompoland) December 11, 2023
In the debate ahead of this evening’s vote, Borys Budka of KO declared that they were nominating their leader as prime minister not only on behalf of themselves, but “on behalf of over 11 million Polish men and women who [voted for] change on 15 October”.
“We have shown that the ballot paper, the most important document of democracy, can work if you fight for respect, for the truth to replace lies, hypocrisy and lawlessness,” added Budka, quoted by broadcaster TVN. He appealed to PiS to “respect the election result, not interfere, and understand that Poles deserve a real prime minister.”
Speaking on behalf of PiS, Mariusz Błaszczak accused Tusk of “treating Poles as cheap labour for the German economy” during his previous stint as prime minister from 2007 to 2014 before “escaping to Brussels” to become president of the European Council.
Błaszczak claimed that, if Tusk becomes head of government again, he will aim to “appease Brussels and Berlin” while “cutting the budget” and “drowning” his coalition partners. “We will not allow Poland to be stolen by you again,” he declared.
In his first remarks since the ruling party lost its majority at Sunday’s elections, Jarosław Kaczyński has suggested that „external forces” – especially Germany and Russia – are behind the opposition parties now set to form a new government https://t.co/iHuHEMmUik
— Notes from Poland 🇵🇱 (@notesfrompoland) October 21, 2023
Władysław Kosiniak-Kamysz of the centre-right Polish People’s Party (PSL), which is part of the Third Way, said that “Tusk’s government will be a government of Poland, not the government of a political party”.
“Tusk abandoned the comfortable life he could have had after stepping down as head of the European Council,” said Kosiniak-Kamysz, who is likely to be a deputy prime minister in the new government. “He came back so that democracy could win. And it won.”
Włodzimierz Czarzasty, one of the leaders of The Left, admitted that their government – which will range from left to centre-right – “is a very difficult coalition”. But, “despite our differences, I see Tusk as a good guy”, he added.
Donald Tusk has confirmed the names of members of his government, which is likely to take office next week.
Radosław Sikorski will return as foreign minister while Marzena Czarnecka will head a newly created industry ministry based in Silesia https://t.co/JI4GqTdUSU
— Notes from Poland 🇵🇱 (@notesfrompoland) December 8, 2023
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Main image credit: Slawomir Kaminski / Agencja Wyborcza.pl
Daniel Tilles is editor-in-chief of Notes from Poland. He has written on Polish affairs for a wide range of publications, including Foreign Policy, POLITICO Europe, EUobserver and Dziennik Gazeta Prawna.