Warsaw march saw Donald Tusk succeed in establishing dominance among the opposition, says Polish academic

Centrist opposition party leader Donald Tusk, left, and Lech Walesa, who along with other critics accuses the government of eroding democracy, lead an anti-government march in Warsaw, Poland, Saturday June 4, 2023. (AP Photo/Czarek Sokolowski)
By Grzegorz Adamczyk
4 Min Read

The anti-government march through the Polish capital of Warsaw on Sunday was of great importance for Donald Tusk, as it confirmed his status as leader of the opposition and brought him a step closer to getting other marginalized opposition politicians to join a Tusk-led alliance in the upcoming elections, according to Prof. Mieczysław Ryba of Catholic University in Lublin.

Speaking with the wPolityce.pl news portal, the academic said Tusk could now count on the liberal media to pressure other opposition parties to submit to his leadership, and if he succeeds in that venture, even should he lose the coming election, he will still have established a bridgehead for a future presidential election challenge. 

Asked whether he had a feeling of déjà vu seeing Donald Tusk and Lech Wałęsa together, just as they were in 1992 when they were involved in bringing down the first government of the right in the Third Polish Republic, Ryba replied that Tusk is a representative of a deal between the liberals and the left that dates back to the Round Table accords from 1989. For these people, the victories of the conservatives in the elections were totally unacceptable. 

The professor also predicted that Donald Tusk will attempt to soften the narrative and his image ahead of the election. That is why in his speech on Sunday he appealed to people’s patriotism and for unity. It was a departure from the aggressive anti-government narrative he has been pursuing for months. However, at the march, there were not only lots of white and red national flags but many rainbow and EU flags as well.

It was quite absurd that Tusk spoke about justice, fighting corruption, and taking care of family — all matters that the current conservatives had to deal with when cleaning up after his time in government. It was also absurd to attempt to portray Poland’s economy as failing given the rising living standards and a whole raft of impressive performance indicators. 

Prof. Ryba feels that the liberal-left electorate is living in an alternate reality created by the opposition media — a world in which celebrities and academics constantly talk of the end of democracy and of Poland being overrun by the ignorant masses. 

Tusk has failed to change the state of mind of his supporters. A state of mind displayed most vividly by well-known actor, Andrzej Seweryn, who in a conversation on social media said that people from the ruling conservatives are not worth debating but must be physically forced out. These negative feelings and outright hatred are very difficult to control. 

Prof. Ryba is certain that the Sunday opposition demonstration in Warsaw will not change anyone’s views, but it may change the shape of the opposition by making Tusk’s party dominant among the opposition electorate. Donald Tusk is once again the person around whom the anti-conservative electorate congregates, the academic added.

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