Donald Tusk is benefiting from the problems of Poland’s other liberal party

Szymon Hołownia during his presidential election campaign in 2020. (AP photo).
By Grzegorz Adamczyk
4 Min Read

The liberal Civic Platform (PO) led by Donald Tusk had a serious problem when Szymon Hołownia, a TV celebrity, stood as an independent polling over 13 percent of the vote in the presidential election and then formed a new political movement, Poland 2050.

Not only was Hołowni reaching voters the PO was finding hard to reach, but he was also taking votes from Poland’s largest opposition party. When support for Poland 2050 was consistently over 10 percent in the opinion polls, there was little chance of him agreeing to an electoral coalition with the PO. But now that the party is consistently registering below 10 percent in the polls, and with the PO in the upper 20s, Hołownia is getting nervous and beginning to realize that he could end up with fewer MPs or no MPs at all if he stands his own slate of candidates.

Hołownia’s appeal back in 2020 was that of the new kid on the block who would be a cleaner and fresher version of what the PO once was. Back in 2015, the Modern Party led by Ryszard Petru had the same high hopes and for a while threatened the PO in the polls. Yet, by the time of the next election in 2019, it had been forced into a coalition with the older party and is today nothing more than a sidekick of the PO. 

Is history about to repeat itself?

It increasingly looks like it now that Tusk is once again leader of the PO and Hołownia’s party is coming apart at the seams. It has failed to build a strong organization and is weak financially, as it does not enjoy state support having never contested a parliamentary election. Moreover, attempts to create an electoral alliance with one of the oldest and most establishment-oriented parties, the Polish People’s Party (PSL) has successfully undermined Hołownia’s claims to be a fresh and clean political force.

The party is now losing members, and one of its MPs left the party a few days ago in protest at Hołownia’s negotiations with the PSL. Pressure is building on Hołownia to either complete a deal with PSL or accept the idea of a broader opposition list under the patronage of Tusk and the PO. 

There can be no question that the beneficiary of Hołownia’s uncomfortable predicament is Donald Tusk and the PO. This is because Hołownia’s negotiating position is becoming weaker by the day with either the PSL or the PO.

There isn’t much time left. The party has to decide fast what it wants to do and with whom. Its agenda of “greening” Poland and cleaning up public life is not distinctive or fresh enough to inspire an upsurge in the polls.

It has been the right-wing Confederation with its libertarian tinge that has benefited from the PO’s shift to the left on economic and other issues rather than Hołownia. He’s no longer the new kid on the block and today seems stale.

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