Prime Minster Donald Tusk ended months (even years) of speculation when he announced in late January that he will not run for president this year. It was high time for Mr. Tusk to make this decision, as he was facing mounting criticism for dithering. Although the presidency is a far more prestigious position than prime minister, Mr. Tusk said the head of state’s powers are largely ceremonial and he could do more for the country by staying on as premier. He put forward Sejm Marshall Bronisław Komorowski and Foreign Minister Radosław Sikorski as good choices, a fact that is underscored by the two men’s opinion poll ratings. It was later announced that PO members would choose their candidate in a US-style presidential primary.
Analysis and Forecast: Decreasing Risk
Mr. Tusk’s decision was long overdue. By declining to stand, he can assume firmer posture by removing the “chains of candidacy.” He will be able to use his influence, public standing and political capital to help the eventual nominee, who will be chosen by a primary – a first in Poland. The decision to hold a primary is a double-edged sword: On the one hand, a primary challenge will raise the profiles of both Komorowski and Sikorski. On the other hand, the skirmishes between the two camps could turn ugly, which would play into the hands of incumbent President Lech Kaczyński.
According to a survey by the Homo Homini Institute, either Komorowski or Sikorski would defeat Mr. Kaczyński. It is therefore no surprise that Law and Justice party (PiS), which Mr. Kaczyński founded, immediately went on the attack. PiS leader and former Prime Minister Jaroslaw Kaczyński, who also happens to be the president’s twin brother, told Newsweek Polska that he has damning evidence on Mr. Sikorski from his time as defense minister in the PiS government. Jaroslaw Kaczyński said he had shared his information with Mr. Tusk, but refused to reveal the smoking gun over concerns about protecting state secrets. Mr. Tusk denied that he ever received such information from his predecessor and immediately demanded the former premier release his evidence to the public. If Jaroslaw Kaczyński cannot back up his claims, he will have effectively painted himself into a corner and hurt his brother’s chances. Should he be able to provide proof, the PO may be able to use the primary as a tool to divert attention from the scandal and toward its candidate.