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Tusk expected to take over as Poland’s PM as conservatives give up power

Donald Tusk is in line to take over as Poland’s prime minister (AP Photo/Czarek Sokolowski, File)
Donald Tusk is in line to take over as Poland’s prime minister (AP Photo/Czarek Sokolowski, File)

The national conservatives who have ruled Poland for eight years are expected to finally relinquish power this week to a centrist bloc led by political veteran Donald Tusk.

The transition will come in several steps over three days, starting on Monday, nearly two months since Poles turned out in huge numbers to vote for change in a national election.

The transition was delayed for weeks by the president, who chose to keep his political allies in office as long as possible.

“Ready, Steady, Go!” tweeted Mr Tusk, who is expected to be chosen as the new prime minister by the evening.

Poland Politics Cinema
People fill a cinema to watch a speech to parliament by outgoing Polish prime minister Mateusz Morawiecki in Warsaw (AP Photo/Michal Dyjuk)

The change of power in Poland is consequential for the 38 million citizens of the central European nation, where collective anger produced a record-high turnout to replace a government that had been eroding democratic norms.

There is relief for many, including women who saw reproductive rights eroded and LGBT+ people who faced a government hate campaign that drove some to leave the country.

The change holds important implications for Ukraine and the EU as well.

Mr Tusk, a past EU leader, is expected to improve Warsaw’s standing in Brussels.

His leadership of the EU’s fifth largest member by population will boost centrist, pro-EU forces at a time when euro-sceptics, such as Geert Wilders in the Netherlands, are gaining strength.

Poland’s outgoing nationalist government was initially one of Kyiv’s strongest allies after Russia invaded Ukraine last year, but ties have worsened as economic competition from Ukrainian food producers and truckers has angered Poles who say their livelihoods are threatened.

A blockade by Polish truckers at the border with Ukraine counts among the many problems Mr Tusk will have to tackle immediately.

The protest has held up the shipment of some military equipment that charities are importing, and Mr Tusk has accused the outgoing government of Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki of mishandling the situation.

The next days will be a choreography of political steps dictated by the constitution.

First, Mr Morawiecki is required to address the Sejm, the Polish parliament’s lower house, and then face a confidence vote which he will lose, bringing an end to his premiership exactly six years after he assumed the office on December 11 2017.

The Sejm is scheduled to elect Mr Tusk later on Monday. He must then address lawmakers on Tuesday and he will face a confidence vote himself, which he seems sure to win given that he is backed by a majority in the 460-seat body.

The final act will involve President Andrzej Duda swearing in Mr Tusk and his government. That is expected to happen on Wednesday.

Mr Tusk then plans to fly to Brussels for an EU summit later in the week where discussions critical for Ukraine’s future are expected as the nation fights off the Russian invasion.