Three days in December: Donald Tusk government takes over (4-13 December 2023)

by | Dec 13, 2023 | Blog | 0 comments

After almost two months since the election day Donald Tusk has officially became the prime minister and Poland entered a new phase in which a coalition government will be required to cohabitate with president Andrzej Duda. With local elections in just three months, Tusk may have little time to initiate and implement the political and policy changes he promised during the campaign.

The post-election process came to an end on Wednesday, 13 December, at the official swearing-in ceremony held by the president. The prime minister Tusk and his ministers received their acts of appointment. For Tusk it has been a return to the the prime minister’s seat which he left in 2014 to become a European Council president.

A day earlier, on Tuesday, 12 December, Tusk received a vote of confidence from Sejm, the lower chamber of the Polish parliament. The confirmation and Tusk’s two hour-long expose (a speech in which he presented his government’s program) was upstaged by an incident in which Grzegorz Braun, a far-right MP and a Confederacy member, entered a room in the parliament building where Hanukah ceremony was taking place and used fire extinguisher to put out the candles on a menorah. Braun’s behaviour was almost universally condemned and a disciplinary action may end with him being excluded from the parliament. 

But the arguably dark mood was set already a day earlier, on the 11 December. The Law and Justice hopes to stay in power were ultimately dashed. In his expose Mateusz Morawiecki offered a “democratic package”: provided his government would receive a vote of confidence, the opposition parties would receive more influence on the parliamentary order and the prime minister would appear before the Sejm to answer MPs’ questions. It was met with ridicule and disbelief by the opposition and the media critical to Law and Justice which reminded that similar proposal was already offered by Jarosław Kaczyński years ago and quickly forgotten after Law and Justice took over the government in 2015.

Morawiecki did not receive confirmation and thus the parliament started the so-called second step constitutional procedure in which Donald Tusk was nominated to become prime minister. Speaking after the vote, Tusk reminded that Law and Justice used anti-German sentiment to attack him during the campaign. In the presidential campaign of 2005, Jacek Kurski, a Law and Justice politician, popularised a half-true claim that Tusk’s grandfather was a Wehrmacht solider during the war. In fact, Józef Tusk was forced to join the German army from which he quickly deserted. 

In his speech on Monday, Donald Tusk mentioned that the late president Lech Kaczyński condemned Jacek Kurski. It probably triggered Jarosław Kaczyński, Lech’s twin brother, who took the podium and called Tusk “a German agent”.

In comparison, the Wednesday swearing-in ceremony at the presidential palace was much more polite, with both Andrzej Duda and Donald Tusk stressing the importance of the words of the oath each minister had just repeated: so that the good of the fatherland and the well-being of citizens will always be the supreme imperative. But Tusk pointed out to another part of the oath in which ministers promise to remain faithful to the provisions of the constitution. With this low-key jab, aimed at the previous government and the president himself, frequently accused by the opposition of breaking the constitution, the new cabinet took office.

Photo by Jakub Szymczuk/KPRP from the official website of the President of Poland, downloaded on 13 December 2023. 

The views and perspectives expressed in this post are solely those of the author.