Recent reports in the Polish media are full of speculation about the potential return of Donald Tusk to Poland’s internal politics after nearly a seven-year break.
Tusk, a former Prime Minister (2007-2014), EU council President and now the leader of EPP in recent weeks has added to that speculation by meeting with opposition leaders and members of the party of which he was one of the founders; Civic Platform (PO).
For Tusk, returning to Polish politics would be a natural thing to do, he is well respected among the opposition parties and its voters.
In a recent poll conducted for Onet.pl in which voters of each of the main parties were asked whether the return of Tusk will help the Polish opposition; 81% of the Civic Coalition voters, 68% of the New Left voters, and 82% of Confederacy voters answered YES.
The surprise here is that 82% of Confederacy voters think that the return of Tusk will help the opposition, Confederacy is a far-right eurosceptic party that would like to see Poland exit the European Union as soon as possible.
On the other side, 61% of Law & Justice (PiS) voters think that Tusk's return would only make things worse for the opposition.
Some reports state that the current leader of PO, Borys Budka, will step down in order to allow Tusk to take over the leadership of the party.
On top of that one of the PO senators (it is yet to be known who it will be) will step down from his or her seat to allow Tusk to run in the by-election and take the seat. In recent weeks many of Tusk’s old guards have been battling for high positions within PO, this is seen by many as laying the foundation for Tusk's return.
Gregorz Schetyna, one of Tusk’s best friends, his loyalist, and the former leader of PO recently took over the position of PO branch leader of the Lower Silesian region, a position he previously held from 2006-2013. Lower Silesia is a region with a population of 2,9mln people in which PO has been doing quite well in elections.
Tusk’s potential return has also switched on the ‘alarm bells’ in the younger camp of PO which isn’t quite as enthusiastic as the old guards and those with liberal-conservative and Christian Democratic views within PO about Tusk’s return.
One of those who in a way somewhat fears Tusk's return is the former Presidential candidate, current Mayor of Warsaw Rafał Trzaskowksi. Trzaskowski and those loyal to him within PO have been re-shaping the image of PO they want it to be a modern liberal party. Tusk supporters within the party don’t particularly like that as they would prefer the party to go back to its liberal-conservative roots.
Just a few weeks ago a number of MPs from the conservative wing of PO left the party and joined the Polish Coalition, a centrist, Christian Democratic coalition bloc which is led by Wladyslaw Kosiniak-Kamysz the leader of Polish People’s Party and former minister of labor and social policy in Tusk's government. They left as they disagreed with the party’s shift to a more pro-abortion stance.
At the start of the month, the government-controlled state TV TVP unleashed a number of attacks on Tusk. This isn’t surprising overall as state TV has been acting as a mouthpiece for government propaganda but what is important to note is the timing at which it happened.
It is clear that many of the government ministers and those in the ruling PiS party fear Tusk’s return as he might be the only one able to weaken PiS’s support and win the elections for the opposition. The long rivalry between Tusk and Kaczynski (PiS leader) which has lasted for over 15 years now, the struggle for power and influence between the two will once again be present in Polish politics.
Whether or not Tusk’s return will benefit the polish opposition, whether or not the reports about his return are true no one really knows yet.
What many do know is that Tusk might be the only one able to weaken PiS and maybe even bring upon a collapse of the PiS government by attracting his former justice minister Jaroslaw Gowin to his camp. Since 2015 Gowin and his party, Agreement, have been part of the United Right coalition.
Lately, a divide has been growing between Agreement and PiS which at two points in the last fifteen months nearly led to the collapse of the government.