Polish Political ‘Star Wars’

From the Return of Tusk to a Border Crisis

15 September 2021

In Polish politics, everything is upside down. First, you watch ‘Return of the Jedi’, and then ‘The Empire Strikes Back’. Will there be a ‘New Hope’ for the democratic opposition at the end?

The holidays began and ended, like in Hitchcock’s film, with an earthquake. The first shock was the return to domestic politics of Donald Tusk, the former head of the European Council and previously a longtime prime minister on behalf of the centre-right PO. After Tusk’s departure, his party lost power in 2015 to the right-wing populist PiS and has been unable to rebuild its position since then. In recent months, Tusk’s party has gradually slipped into nothingness, and its ratings have gingerly moved towards a single-digit result.

The Tusk Effect

The return of Donald Tusk for months played the role of the Loch Ness monster: everyone discussed it, but hardly anyone believed in it. It was predicted that Tusk would return before the European or parliamentary elections in 2019, then before the presidential elections in 2020. Tusk decided to return in 2021 when PiS won everything it could in the current political cycle.

From the point of view of his party, Tusk achieved success very quickly: he pacified all potential rivals who might have been dissatisfied with his return. Tusk’s strong leadership was also immediately reflected in the results of the polls: within a few weeks he managed to return PO to the second position after PiS in party polls – at the level of 26-27 per cent, which has not been recorded for over a year. Tusk does not accept the words of critics and sceptics that so far he is only reheating the old dispute between the PO-PiS and that he does not have much new to offer. The results of the polls show that the necessary stage was the mobilisation of the electorate of his own party, which had recently hung its heads and gradually, stealthily, left the deck.

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Łukasz Lipiński

Deputy editor-in-chief of the Polityka weekly based in Warsaw

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