Donald Tusk nominated as Polish PM with pledge of ‘historic change’

National conservative Law and Justice (PiS) party loses confidence vote and cedes eight years in power

Poland’s Donald Tusk has promised “historic change” after parliament chose him as its candidate for prime minister on Monday evening.

Some 248 MPs from his new coalition alliance voted for his candidacy with 201 opposed. During an eventful day in the Sejm, Poland’s lower house, the national conservative Law and Justice (PiS) party lost a confidence vote to end its eight years in power.

“Thank you Poland, this is a great day, not for me, but for all those who believed that things would get better,” said Mr Tusk after securing the support from of his own centrist Civic Coalition (KO) and its future coalition partners, the centre-right Third Way and The Left.

On Tuesday Mr Tusk will formally present his coalition for a confidence vote in parliament in advance of their formal swearing-in a day later by President Andrzej Duda.


Following October’s election, Mr Duda asked the first-placed PiS – his former political allies – to try forming a government. Though PiS finished first, the party took just 194 seats in the 460-seat Sejm – 37 short of a majority and lacking a clear path to power.

After two months of fruitless talks, the caretaker PiS prime minister, Mateusz Morawiecki, attracted even fewer votes on Monday and was defeated by 266-190 votes in a confidence motion for a new term as leader.

Before the vote, Mr Morawiecki summarised what he saw as his party’s main achievements in power, including improving living standards through a higher minimum wage and more generous welfare benefits.

“We introduced a new socio-economic model – the first steps in creating a country of solidarity,” said Mr Morawiecki, a swipe at the previous liberal government lead by Mr Tusk until 2014.

In a lively Sejm session, Jaroslaw Kaczynski, PiS chairman and Poland’s de facto leader, accused Mr Tusk of being a “German agent”. He predicted that without PiS in power, Poland would become a “dwelling area for Poles managed from outside from Brussels and Berlin”.

After his eight years in office, Monday’s confidence vote defeat may also have ended the political career of the 74-year-old Mr Kacyznski, the most dominant political figure of his generation.

Poland’s new coalition has already agreed a programme for government that promises to reverse many of the most controversial PiS reforms: depoliticise public media and schools, outlaw anti-LGBT hate speech and introduce fresh measures to separate church and state. It also plans to roll back a 2020 constitutional court ruling which has made abortion effectively illegal.

After last October’s election ended with a record 74 per cent turnout, Monday’s parliament proceedings attracted huge public interest, too, with record television ratings and about 200,000 watching a YouTube live stream throughout the day. More than 1,000 people snapped up tickets to watch a live stream of the Sejm votes in a central Warsaw cinema.

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Derek Scally

Derek Scally

Derek Scally is an Irish Times journalist based in Berlin