Donald Tusk wants swift handover of power after election success

Opposition leader urges president to form new government after pro-EU allies win overall majority

Donald Tusk, leader of the largest opposition grouping Civic Coalition, delivers a speech after the exit poll results are announced in Warsaw. Reuters
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Polish opposition leader Donald Tusk has urged the county's president to start the process of forming a new government after official election results showed Mr Tusk's liberal pro-EU party and its allies winning a majority.

Poland's Electoral Commission confirmed that the ruling nationalist Law and Justice (PiS) party had lost its majority, though it remains the largest single party in the lower house of parliament, after winning 35 per cent of the vote share.

The Civic Coalition (KO), led by Donald Tusk, has emerged as the most likely party to form a coalition government, after winning 30.7 per cent of the overall vote.

“I’m appealing to the president to make quick, energetic decisions,” Mr Tusk said on Tuesday. “The parties are ready to take over the responsibility for governing the country. Mr. President, people are waiting.”

Results show that the centre-right Third Way took third place with 14.4 per cent and the New Left had 8.6 per cent, the Commission said. The far-right Confederation won 7.1 per cent.

KO, the Third Way and the New Left will have about 250 seats in the 460-seat legislature combined, enough for them to form a coalition government.

“In the coming days, after the (final) results are announced, we will talk,” said Wladyslaw Kosiniak-Kamysz, a leader of Third Way, referring to the planned tripartite coalition negotiations.

However, forming such a government could take weeks, if not months. President Andrzej Duda, a PiS ally, said before the vote that he would give the first shot at forming a cabinet to the group or party that won most ballots.

With no party indicating a willingness to join a PiS-led government, however, the nationalist party led by Jaroslaw Kaczynski seems unlikely to be able to secure a third term at the helm of the EU's largest eastern member state.

In that event, Mr Duda is expected to invite Mr Tusk as leader of the second biggest party to attempt to form a government.

“Evil has prevailed in Poland, temporarily,” Marek Suski, a senior PiS official, told public broadcaster TVP. “PiS is likely moving into a really democratic opposition.”

Turnout in Sunday's election exceeded 74 per cent, the highest in Poland since the collapse of communism in 1989 after the parties galvanised large numbers of younger voters for the first time.

But the election campaign was marred by harsh, divisive rhetoric, reflecting deep polarisation in Polish society.

Vowing to protect Polish borders and sovereignty, PiS cast the vote as a fight against what it claimed was unfettered migration and against unwarranted interference in national life by EU bureaucrats.

Opposition leaders including Mr Tusk, a former European Council president, said PiS would take Poland out of the EU if it won a third term – a charge denied by the ruling party despite its numerous legal and political feuds with Brussels.

The opposition parties have yet to name a candidate for the post of prime minister but Mr Tusk, 66, is widely expected to be their nominee. He served as Polish premier from 2007 to 2014.

“Nobody doubts today that without Donald Tusk's energy and determination, change in Poland would not have been possible,” Marcin Kierwinski, a senior KO official, told Polsat News broadcaster.

Still, the three parties are likely to face complex talks over issues such as abortion and LGBT rights.

On abortion, Mr Kosiniak-Kamysz of Third Way said his party would support reversing a 2021 near-total ban on terminations by reinstating the right to abortion in cases of foetal defects, but would not agree upfront to further liberalisation.

KO and the New Left also want to allow abortions up to 12 weeks without limitations. Third Way wants Poles to decide the matter in a referendum.

“No ideological issues can be part of any coalition agreement,” Mr Kosiniak-Kamysz said.

Updated: October 17, 2023, 2:20 PM