Civic Platform elects new leader but loses thousands of members: commentary

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Donald Tusk’s protégée, 41-year-old lawyer Borys Budka, has now been elected as the new leader of the Civic Platform (PO), but warning signs are already cropping up.

After the election results revealed he would lead the party, it turned out that the party barely even exists.

When Tusk won the elections for the top spot in the PO in 2013, there were 39,401 PO party members eligible to vote. In January 2016 when Grzegorz Schetyna fought for the position uncontested, there were 17,000 eligible members, according to data from the head of PO’s state electoral commission.

In January 2020, only 10,816 members were eligible to vote, pointing to a rapid deterioration in party membership.

This means, that in the last seven years, 28,585 eligible members of PO have disappeared and in the last four years, 6,184.

The PO leadership elections prove that the party has swiftly lost members in the last seven years and that any mandate for a leader in the party is simply not strong with so few eligible to pick their leader. While Budka did win decisively, he still is in an even worse position than Grzegorz Schetyna was in January 2016.

Despite his many faults, Schetyna was experienced in political maneuvers and strategy. He showed a deft skill at extricating himself and his party from difficult situations, an important ability that Budka seems to be sorely lacking. There was, however, strong pressure in PO to change, especially when it comes to leadership personalities.

Does Budka have any chance to save PO from total marginalization? He has the revolutionary zeal, but he also seems to demonstrate a strong strain of naivety that Schetyna did not possess, which could be a severe political liability for PO’s new leader.

It is very likely Budka will rebuild the Civic Platform in the same way Katarzyna Lubnauer rebuilt and “saved” the Modern Party, a party that coincidentally managed to disappear entirely from the Polish political scene.

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