Donald Tusk Not Running for Polish President Is a Good Thing

Mateusz Włodarczyk - // CC 4.0

An anti-communist oppositionist in the times of the Third Polish Republic, Vice-Marshall of the Polish Sejm, two-time Prime Minister of Poland and President of Europe, awarded with numerous international prizes. One may safely say that Donald Tusk would make the most competent presidential candidate in the 2020 presidential election. Having established that, let me tell you why I think it’s good that he decided against running for the office.

When analyzing the past presidential elections it becomes clear that Poles do not vote for statesmen. They are more likely to support the candidates whom they can imagine having a dinner with and talking about current affairs.

Those who still perceive Donald Tusk as a legendary slayer of the Law and Justice (PiS) party seem not to notice that he already was a breath of fresh air some good 10-15 years ago. Back then, the Polish society exhibited certain general values, expectations, and ideas. Donald Tusk was a perfect manifestation of those values when he came to power. Now, something else is in fashion.

A similar phenomenon was experienced in the past by the Democratic Left Alliance (SLD) party, which was fixated on many experienced leaders, like former President of Poland Aleksander Kwaśniewski.

Even though the politicians of this kind are associated with positive memories by those who voted for them, they are incapable of gathering the support of younger electorate, nor of taking away the votes in favor of their opponents. They seem obsolete. The same is true for Donald Tusk and voters who have not yet turned 40.

Claiming that the Civic Platform (PO) party has been stuck in the past instead of imposing a new narrative is a well-deserved criticism. By once again engaging in Polish politics, Donald Tusk would only further preserve the status quo and would thus resemble Grzegorz Schetyna, the leader of the party, in his rhetoric.

One cannot learn new tricks by playing football in one’s own backyard the entire time. The party would thus continue drifting, but this time with their favorite captain at the helm. And that’s not the point.

By putting forward Beata Szydło (the former Prime Minister) and Andrzej Duda (the current President) for their respective offices, PiS wanted to change their perceived image. The message was further reinforced by introducing younger politicians within the party structures.

Across Poland, young local leaders started getting promoted, forcing their older colleagues to move over and make place at the power table. Interestingly, these were typically the people who were clearly breaking with the stereotypical image of the PiS representative.

We are currently standing at the same crossroads as in 2014. Although I’m well aware that the generational revolution is not easy to undertake – especially for those who are directly affected by it, it’s still unavoidable. A party that identifies solely with the ideals of a given generation, once this generation is no longer in the picture, loses its appeal.

What we now need are new faces and a completely different discourse. This has become apparent especially thanks to such rising stars of Polish politics as Franek Starczewski, a recently elected young MP who made it into the Polish parliament running as the last candidate on the ballot in the city of Poznań, or with widespread support for Małgorzata Kidawa-Błońska, who was put forward as the potential Prime Minister should Civic Coalition win in the 2019 parliamentary election.

People want to see new faces, which is why the forthcoming presidential elections might make a perfect opportunity for opening a new chapter. Let us not get mad at Civic Platform if its candidate doesn’t win. We should get mad if the loss takes place Komorowki-style.

Focusing on preventing PiS from winning is no strategy at all. Instead, the opposition should focus on putting forward a candidate who wins, because he or she will simply make a better candidate – one that gives people hope for a new beginning.

This is why, even though Donald Tusk would indeed make the best candidate for president, it might be easier for someone else to win the run for the office than it would have been for him.

The article was originally published in Polish at:

Translated by Olga Łabendowicz

Marcin Hencz