From Brussels to Warsaw: is Donald Tusk launching his presidential campaign?
05 January 2018 /
Donald Tusk’s mandate as the President of the European Council will end in November 2019 whereas the Polish presidential election will take place in 2020. Recently, political events in Poland as well as on the European area cast doubt, suggesting that the former leader of Platforma Obywatelska may be launching his presidential campaign. Real clues or unfounded rumours ? Make your bets!
Actually, everything started approximately a month ago, on November 19th, with a bitter tweet from the current European Council President posted on his personal account (@donaldtusk): “Warning! An important conflict with Ukraine, isolation from the European Union, violation of the rule of law and of the independence of courts, attacks on the non-governmental area and on the media- is it the strategy of PiS or of the Kremlin? It looks too similar to sleep soundly”. A week after, the conservative weekly magazine Sieci answered with a photomontage on its front cover showing Donald Tusk with two German shepherds and asking “Why is Tusk barking on Poland?”. With a certain sense of humour and apparently without any resent, the former leader of the Civic Platform made a new post on November 27th, showing this time a picture of him with his dog Szeryf, asking him “to leave the journalists of Sieci alone” (Courrier international, 2017).
Meanwhile, nothing was said about this internal quarrel on his other Twitter account (@eucopresident). Is it surprising? Not really as Donald Tusk knows well that through its European functions, he has to stay as neutral as possible and cannot defend the interests of his country more than the general interest of the European Union, a position often criticised by the current Polish government. However, we could wonder if this neutrality does not imply to abstain also from criticising so severely a country, whether it is his country of origin or not. In fact, Donald Tusk would probably not have allowed himself this kind of comments towards another government like he did with its internal opponents in Poland. Besides, this is what has been underlined by Slawomir Neumann, member of the Civic Platform, to the Polish Press Agency: “As a Polish man, he has the right to comment on what is happening in Poland” (dziennik.pl, 2017).
Towards a direct influence on European politics?
However, this division between the two political areas on social media seems to disappear progressively in real life. Indeed, in December, the President of the European Council expressed more support towards the Visegrad group than towards the general interest of the European Union and its principle of solidarity, by criticising the inefficiency of the relocation system for migrants. Is it a way to attract a part of the Polish conservative electorate in the perspective of his candidacy? Although Donald Tusk was already reluctant to this system in 2015 but has been asked to keep his doubts for himself, the fact that he is openly expressing his disagreement today may not be a coincidence in the calendar. For once, he even got the support of the Polish government and especially of the new Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki who recognised that the opinion of Donald Tusk was something positive for Poland, declaring “we are happy about all the voices that are supporting our narration regarding the issue of migration” (Osowski, 2017). On the contrary, the European Commission and especially the EU commissioner for Migration and Home Affairs Dimitris Avramopoulos, assured that this position is “anti european” and that Donald Tusk should work to build a unity among member states instead of undermining the principle of solidarity and all the work done so far by the European institutions (Durman, 2017).
A traitor for PiS, the best candidate for PO ?
Could we interpret these events as the reflection of the upcoming comeback of Donald Tusk in national politics? According to some members of the Civic Platform, the President of the European Council would like to challenge Andrzej Duda during the 2020’s presidential elections (dziennik.pl, 2017). Moreover, Tomasz Siemoniak, the former Polish Minister of Defence declared that the Civic Platform members “hope that Donald Tusk will be the candidate representing the party in 2020”, putting an end to the rumours about Rafal Trzaskowski being a potential candidate (dorzeczy.pl, 2017). Overall, this is something credible knowing that Donald Tusk’s European mandate will end in November 2019.
Also, according to some media, Mateusz Morawiecki could have been chosen by Law and Justice as the new Polish Prime Minister in order to be “a conservative version of Donald Tusk” in the perspective of the 2019 parliamentary elections in Poland (Zerka, 2017). Moreover, on December 10th, the Polish public channel TVP published on its website, the result of a poll that was supposed to prove that “Poles do not want to see Donald Tusk back in the Polish political stage”, but which was also asking the question : “According to you, to what extent Donald Tusk, as the President of the European Council, is defending the interests of Poland?” (tvp.info, 2017). More than revealing the fact that this poll voluntarily forgets that the role of Donald Tusk is not to defend the interests of Poland in his European functions, it is probably showing the will of the current government to throw a spanner in the works of Donald Tusk, and especially in his potential plan to come back in national politics.
Is a person enough to save a party ?
But is Donald Tusk enough to save Civic Platform? Aleks Szczerbiak, specialised in Polish politics, underlines that although the members of this party seem very enthusiastic about the perspective of Donald Tusk being their candidate for the next presidential election, the polls show that the current government from Law and Justice is quite popular, especially thanks to its measures towards the modest income population, whereas Civic platform is still considered as an elitist party (Szczerbiak, 2017). It seems that the centrist party needs a brand new strategy to seduce the Poles but will Donald Tusk accept to be the one embracing this challenge ? Make your bets and check Twitter regularly!
Alexia Fafara is studying for a Double Degree Programme in European Studies at Jagiellonian University of Krakow, Poland and the Institute of Political Studies in Strasbourg, France.
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