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After seven years in Brussels, Donald Tusk is back in Polish politics and has one goal: to defeat the nationalist Law and Justice party (PiS).
“I’m back 100 percent,” the former Polish prime minister and former president of the European Council told a congress on Saturday of the Civic Platform (PO), the troubled liberal party he founded in 2001.
He is now the head of the European People’s Party, the largest group of center-right parties in the EU, but made it clear that he is returning to national politics to lead the charge against PiS, which has seen relations with Brussels embittered thanks to to accusations that it is backsliding on democracy, undermining the rule of law, curbing media freedom, and unleashing attacks on the LGBTQ + community.
“The evil that PiS is doing is blatant, blatant and permanent. It is happening every day, on almost every issue, ”Tusk, 64, said in an emotional speech that accused the government and its supporters of corruption, clashes with the EU and Poland’s European partners, restriction of rights of women, mismanagement of the coronavirus pandemic and denial of climate change.
The current party chief, Boris Budka, stepped aside to allow Tusk to regain the top job. He has been accused of doing a mediocre job leading a party that has been unable to regain political initiative since he lost power to PiS in 2015.
“I put the future of the country and the future of PO above my own ambitions,” Budka said. “Donald Tusk is returning to Polish politics at the invitation and at my request.”
The party has long looked longingly at Tusk, who led Plataforma Cívica to two electoral victories and ruled Poland from 2005 to 2014, seeing him as someone who could reinvigorate the party.
But it is not clear whether the broader electorate shares the same hunger. One recent survey found that more than 60 percent of those surveyed said they should not return to Polish politics.
ELECTORAL SURVEY OF THE NATIONAL PARLIAMENT OF POLAND
For more survey data from across Europe, visit POLITICAL Survey of polls.
PiS will also surely reignite the allegations that haunted the last days of the Tusk government: that it was distant, did not understand the needs of ordinary Poles, did not have ambitious programs, and that several ministers left after being embroiled in a scandal after the recordings. of his conversations were posted in a fancy restaurant.
His old enemy Jarosław Kaczyński, the 72-year-old PiS leader and the de facto ruler of Poland, unleashed that line of attack in a interview earlier this week. He accused Tusk of returning to Poland because he is lazy and loves Germany.
“That’s the brutal truth,” Kaczyński said. “Everything else with this asking and waiting is a bit of theater to sweeten this comeback.”
PiS holds its own party congress this weekend, where Kaczyński will reassert himself as the leader. Yet it is politically vulnerable: the PiS-led United Right ruling coalition is consumed by internal battles and lost its formal majority in the Polish parliament last week.
“After almost six years, can we talk about success? Yes, we can ”, Kaczyński He said faithful to his party, enunciating changes in social, international, cultural and educational policies. “We can say in all areas.”
Tusk denounced the PiS congress as “a grotesque group of people.”
“It’s a pretty sorry parody of the dictatorship,” he said. “This is not overwhelming power. What is overwhelming is our lack of faith and our weakness “
That means Tusk is back at a time when the opposition sees the possibility of the government imploding and being forced to hold elections ahead of the scheduled date in 2023.
Tusk will have to work hard to unite the disputed opposition parties and add energy and optimism to a group that has lost faith in its ability to win. Civic Platform lags behind Poland 2050 in opinion polls, a new grouping formed by Catholic journalist Szymon Hołownia that has managed to attract some politicians from the PO.
Tusk said he’s back because he thinks PO can still win. “What is most important in politics, what is so important today, not only for PO, is to regain faith in his own agency and the possibility of winning. Those who do not believe in their own abilities will not win; a party that does not believe in the meaning of its own existence will not win, “he said.
The EPP did not issue a formal statement, but indicated that there was no problem with Tusk remaining as head of the group while he returned to active politics in Poland.