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After a year-long honeymoon, the ruling Civic Platform (PO) and PM Tusk saw their popularity dip in the last quarter of 2009. After polling above 40% for almost all of 2009, the PO’s support suddenly fell 3% in November and 4% in December, leaving the party with 34% support. The main opposition party, the PiS, boosted its popularity 8% to 26% in December, its best rating for the entire year.

 

The percentage of Poles who say they trust Prime Minister Tusk has declined gradually throughout 2009, sinking from 62% in February to 48% in December. Incumbent President Lech Kaczyński, who will probably be Mr. Tusk’s main opponent in the presidential contest, has failed to capitalize on the prime minister’s deteriorating numbers in the same way as the PiS has with respect to the PO. Still, Mr. Kaczyński has consistently held on to his voter base throughout the year.

 

Analysis and Forecast: Increasing Risk

 

Mr. Tusk and the PO’s unusually long honeymoon had to end sometime. The question now is whether they can manage another comeback before the presidential election. Their task will be difficult for at least three reasons: (1) Problems in the economy are unlikely to go away (2) The need to control the budget deficit might make unpopular measures inevitable (3) The opposition PiS will inevitably step up its attacks during the campaign, reviving the so-called Blackjack-gate corruption scandal and other potentially damaging issues.

 

Mr. Tusk is aware of these pitfalls. It is therefore no surprise that he now says he will delay his decision on whether or not to run to mid-March. Former Prime Minister Wlodzimierz Cimoszewicz, who enjoys a fairly strong position in the opinion polls, may have eased Tusk’s dilemma in when he endorsed him for president in mid-January. Mr. Cimoszewicz, who was once a leading member of the formerly communist Democratic Left Alliance (SLD), called Mr. Tusk “the most serious candidate for the post,” adding that he is the only one who can prevent Kaczyński from winning a second term.