Trading Places: opposition nominates new PM candidate

The leading opposition force, the Civic Coalition (KO) has decided to make Małgorzata Kidawa-Błońska its candidate for prime minister should it form the next government.

Grzegorz Scehtyna, the leader of the main party within the KO, the Civic Platform, announced at a convention held on Tuesday in Warsaw that a former Speaker of Parliament Małgorzata Kidawa-Błońska will be KO’s candidate for the office of Prime Minister, should the coalition be able to form the next government after the Parliamentary election.

Switching places

She will now be standing at the top of the Warsaw slate of KO candidates in a direct head-to-head confrontation with the ruling party leader Jarosław Kaczyński who heads the Law and Justice (PiS) list in the capital city. Mr Schetyna, who was due to top the Warsaw list, will now be returning to his native Wrocław to head the KO list there in Ms Kidawa-Błońska’s place.

The announcement comes in the aftermath of reports that an agency engaged to advise the KO with its election campaign had recommended that the KO should attempt to reduce the presence of Mr Schetyna in the campaign as he polls badly even among KO voters.

Announcing a woman candidate for PM who is not a party leader is reminiscent of the tactic deployed at the last election by the ruling PiS. In 2015 it fielded Beata Szydło as a PM-designate, rather than its leader Jarosław Kaczyński.

Małgorzata Kidawa-Błońska has been a PO MP since 2005. She served as the government press spokesperson in the government of Donald Tusk and went on to become deputy Parliamentary Speaker and the Speaker of Parliament in 2014.

Comment

The main opposition party, the PO, has for years criticised PiS and its leader for the fact that Mr Kaczyński is a “back-seat driver”. It has argued that a party leader should be the PM.

Now the PO is doing exactly what it has criticised PiS for. A party leader who has poor poll ratings is stepping aside and letting someone else front the campaign and be the PM designate.

The PO hopes that this move will soften the party image and make it more appealing to women voters. It also hopes for a “honeymoon” period of voters getting to know a new face at the top of Polish politics that might give the opposition a filip in the polls.

It will be interesting to see how PiS react. Will the PM Mateusz Morawiecki challenge the KO’s PM designate to debate? PM Morawieckin went on record as being ready to debate Mr Schetyna when it looked as if it was the PO leader who was to be a potential head of government for the opposition. Mr Schetyna rejected that challenge saying that he would only debate the leader of PiS, Jarosław Kaczyński.

There can be little doubt that PiS will paint Ms Kidawa-Błońska as inexperienced on economic, social and foreign policy matters. They will accuse the opposition of a PR gimmick designed to soften the harsh “total opposition” image which is now stuck to the PO leader Grzegorz Schetyna.

The PO’s experience with a woman PM and leader, in the shape of Ewa Kopacz is not something it will want to repeat. Her leadership was seen as erratic and she went on to lead the party to defeats in the presidential and parliamentary polls of 2015.

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