„New Polish PM Donald Tusk takes the reins”, AFP

16 listopada 2007


WARSAW (AFP) — Donald Tusk, leader of Poland’s election-winning liberal party, took the reins of power Friday as he was sworn in as prime minister by bitter rival President Lech Kaczynski.
A televised ceremony held at the presidential palace in Warsaw marked the formal start of what is expected to be a testy working relationship between the two men, as Tusk tasted revenge for his narrow defeat by Kaczynski in the 2005 presidential election.
Tusk, 50, won power after his Civic Platform beat the Kaczynski brothers’ conservative Law and Justice party in a snap parliamentary election last month.
In a speech Friday, Tusk said he was counting on Kaczynski, with three years left as president, to cooperate.
„I am convinced that if we help each other, we will succeed. I am addressing this sincere request to you too, Mister President,” Tusk said.
Tusk’s victory brought an end to an unprecedented political double act: defeated prime minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski, 58, is the president’s identical twin.
The ousted premier, who is known for his unforgiving political style, broke with tradition and stayed away from the ceremony.
Officially, he is on holiday, having left Warsaw Thursday.
„I’d like to believe it’s just a question of a fortuitous coincidence,” Tusk said.
The government press office said the ex-premier had left a letter in his former office for Tusk — insiders said it was just three sentences long, but did not elaborate.
But Kaczynski spared no time settling scores with opponents closer to home, suspending three former aides who disagreed with him from his party Friday.
An internal party inquiry has also been launched against the three, Poland’s TVN24 television channel quoted Kaczynski ally Karol Karski as saying.
The conservatives had been in power for two years, but Jaroslaw Kaczynski, who became premier in July 2006, had struggled to hold together his fractious three-party coalition.
Tusk has also been forced to form a coalition because Civic Platform missed its goal of obtaining a parliamentary majority on its own, winning 209 of the total 460 seats.
Law and Justice won 166 seats.
Although the departure of his hardball brother has clipped his wings, President Kaczynski is still expected to give Tusk a tough time.
„The presidential palace has become the headquarters of the conservatives and the president will be the principal opposition tool,” said political scientist Kazimierz Kik.
Analyst Eryk Mistewicz said „the knives will be out,” and Poles can expect to see Kaczynski seize every opportunity to criticise Tusk.
Poland’s president has the power to veto laws piloted by the government, and Kaczynski has already announced he will block Tusk’s planned introduction of a single-rate „flat tax” to replace Poland’s complex system of tax bands.
While the coalition is short of the two-thirds voting support needed to overturn a veto, it will not be forced into major horsetrading with Law and Justice because the left-wing Social Democrats, who have 53 seats, are expected to support it on many issues.
Tusk has pledged to end the regular tussles with the rest of the European Union, and with neighbouring Germany in particular, which marked Law and Justice’s rule.
He has also promised to ease tensions with Russia, withdraw Polish troops from Iraq and warned he will drive a harder bargain in talks with Washington on siting part of a US anti-missile system in Poland.
At home, he has promised to slash bureaucracy, revive the stalled privatisation process and reform the shambolic health service.
He also wants to spur the already robust economy to try to draw home some of the more than a million Poles who have emigrated since the country joined the EU in 2004.