Centrist candidate Donald Tusk is elected prime minister in Poland

Warsaw, Poland (AFP) – Donald TuskThe Center Party leader returned as Poland’s prime minister for the first time in nearly a decade after a vote in parliament on Monday, paving the way for a new pro-EU government after eight years of stormy nationalist conservative rule.

Tusk, a former EU leader who served as President of the European Council from 2014 to 2019 and has strong ties in Brussels, is expected to work to improve Warsaw’s standing in the bloc’s capital. He was Prime Minister of Poland from 2007 to 2014.

Tusk’s rise to power came approximately two months after the elections It was won by a coalition of parties Ranging from left to moderate conservative. The parties competed on separate lists, but promised to work together under Tusk’s leadership To restore democratic standards Improving relations with allies.

The change of power appears to be of great importance to the central European country’s 38 million citizens, where mass anger against PiS has led to a record turnout to replace the government that many believe was in place. Erosion of democratic norms.

The Law and Justice Party, which took office in 2015, has increased its power over the courts and tribunals, sparking accusations from the European Union and others that it is eroding the independence of the judiciary. It also turned taxpayer-funded public media into the party’s mouthpiece.

The vote came by 248 votes to 201 in favor of Tusk in the 460-seat House of Representatives, without any member abstaining from voting.

Tusk said in a short speech: “Thank you, Poland, this is a truly wonderful day.” “Not just for me, but for all those who have believed so deeply over these many years…that things will get better.”

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On Tuesday, Tusk is scheduled to deliver a more important speech to Parliament, introducing his government and facing a vote of confidence on his new government. He is then scheduled to be sworn in by President Andrzej Duda, a move scheduled to take place on Wednesday morning.

Tusk’s election comes after the previous government of Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki lost a vote of confidence in parliament earlier today.

The election marked the end of eight turbulent years in which PiS ruled the country with the support of many Poles – but at bitter odds with liberal Poles as well as the 27-nation European Union and other Western allies.

Tusk’s leadership of the EU’s fifth-most populous member would strengthen pro-EU centrist forces at a time when Eurosceptics like him are on the rise. Geert Wilders in the Netherlandsyou gain strength.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen could not contain her joy at congratulating Tusk.

“Your experience and strong commitment to our European values ​​will be invaluable in shaping a stronger Europe, for the benefit of the Polish people,” she tweeted. He added: “I look forward to working with you, starting with the important summit this week,” which begins Thursday.

The transfer of power occurred, which came approximately two months after the election Delayed for weeks by DudaWho kept his political allies in office for as long as possible.

Voters who chose change, including many young Polish people, were keen for the transition to finally arrive, and the parliamentary proceedings ignited widespread interest, leading to a spike in the number of people watching live broadcasts of Parliament online.

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Simone Holonia, a former reality TV personality who leads a party allied with Tusk, Become a speaker He took over the presidency of Parliament last month and attracted attention when he tried to encourage discipline in the sometimes strict assembly.

A Warsaw cinema, which broadcast Monday’s proceedings live, attracted viewers who munched on popcorn and burst into laughter as the outgoing prime minister spoke.

“A lot of unpleasant things have happened in the past eight years, and I’m not surprised that this joy is over,” said Justina Lemanska, a young employee at an advertising agency in the audience.

There is relief for many women who have seen it Reproductive rights have been eroded and LGBTQ+ people who have faced a government hate campaign Some were forced to leave the country.

PiS remains popular with many conservatives thanks to its adherence to traditional Catholic values ​​and the popularity of its social spending policies. The party lowered the retirement age and provided cash payments to families with children while increasing pension payments for the elderly.

That day was a bitter turning point for Jaroslaw Kaczynski, the leader of the conservative ruling party who has led Poland for the past eight years, but now, at 74, he is seeing the enormous power he once wielded diminish.

For years, Kaczynski has accused Tusk, who has good relations with Germany and other countries, of representing Berlin’s interests, although there is no evidence of this.

At the end of the parliamentary session, Kaczynski climbed the podium, turned to Tusk, and said angrily: “You are a German agent, just a German agent.”

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Tusk frowned while Holonia expressed his disappointment that the day ended on a bitter note.

Former President Lech Walesa Who was hospitalized Last week, infected with the coronavirus and still weak, he traveled from his home in Gdańsk to attend the parliamentary session.

The anti-communist freedom fighter was despairing over what he saw as the collapse of democracy under Kaczynski. He appeared in Parliament wearing a T-shirt with the word “Constitution” written on it – a slogan against law and justice. He watched the events from the balcony, and was given a standing ovation by Tusk and other political admirers.

Tusk’s government will face many challenges, including Russia’s cross-border war in Ukraine.

Tusk plans to travel to Brussels for European Union summit Later in the week for critical discussions on the future of Ukraine. This is demanded by Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, Russia’s closest ally in the European Union Ukraine’s membership in the European Union Billions of euros in funding for the war-torn country were taken off the agenda.

The outgoing Polish government was initially one of Kiev’s strongest allies after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine nearly two years ago, but Relations worsened Economic competition from Ukrainian food producers and truck drivers has angered Poles who say their livelihoods are threatened.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky tweeted his congratulations to Tusk, saying: “When we stand together, the freedom of our two countries is unbeatable.”

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Monika Czeslowska, Rafal Niedzielski and Michal Duke contributed to this report.

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