Analysis: Civic Coalition to choose between Donny or Maggie “the Veto”

The biggest opposition force is facing an internal battle over leadership and who to field in the Presidential election.

A win in the Presidential election would give the opposition a veto over virtually all legislation.

Grzegorz Schetyna on the way out?

The current leader of the Civic Coalition (KO) Grzegorz Schetyna is facing an uphill battle to retain his crowd as leader of the Civic Platform (PO), the dominant party within the KO. Only 11 percent of those polled think he should remain leader. His result in his home city of Wrocław was poor, he got less votes than the local ruling party candidate. But most important of all, he is now seen as the face of three election campaigns that ended in defeat; local government, European and Parliamentary.

The ambitious former justice minister Borys Budka has already stated that he is prepared to stand for the leadership at the party Congress which will take place in January or February. So has former Sports Minister Joanna Mucha. Other possible candidates are Małgorzata Kidawa-Błońska, the KO’s PM designate in the last election, the mayor of Warsaw Rafał Trzaskowski and the former Defence Minister Tomasz Siemoniak.

But the party would probably be happiest at the return of Donald Tusk. He gave up the leadership of the party and the premiership in 2014 to become President of the European Council. His term in Brussels ends at the beginning of December, so he would be available to come to the party Congress.

But this scenario is unlikely if Mr Tusk is interested in running for the Polish Presidency. The jobs of President of the country and leader of a political party are impossible to combine.

The Presidential challenge

The Presidential election is now make or break for the opposition. A victory in it would mean it could block any legislation put forward by the government. In this way PiS would be in office but not in power.

But first the opposition parties, the KO, the Left and the Polish People’s Party (PSL) need to make some decisions. Do they agree to a primary process in which one nominee from each stands? Or do they use the first round of the elections effectively as the primary in which one of the three candidates becomes “the” opposition candidate by becoming the opponent of the sitting President Andrzej Duda in the second round?

Donald Tusk has hinted that he would like a broad opposition agreement as one of the conditions for his candidacy. The other being that he and others felt that he would be best placed to beat Mr Duda.

It is not at all clear that he is the best placed to become “Donny the Veto” in the Presidential Palace for the opposition. He may be too invested in the past, of having to defend the record of the PO when in office and of having already lost a Presidential election in 2005.

So the main opposition force with his consent may well end up fielding “Maggie the Veto” - Małgorzata Kidawa-Błońska - who had an impressive result in her native Warsaw during the Parliamentary elections and who was the KO’s PM designate. She also did better than Mr Tusk in a recent poll in terms of likely electoral performance in the second round against the sitting President.

Donald Tusk himself is reported to be thinking that a united opposition candidate need not come from the KO. He is rumoured to be favourable to the PSL leader Władysław Kosiniak-Kamysz to be the joint opposition candidate. But this would be hard to swallow for both the KO and the Left.

Other candidates who are being considered by the KO are the former FM Radosław Sikorski and Warsaw mayor Rafał Trzaskowski. Sikorski, now an MEP, never really found favour with the party members. Trzaskowski may be popular in the party, but he may well be seen as too metropolitan and liberal to be the most convincing challenger for the 50% plus one needed for victory.

The likely choice for the KO is therefore between “Donny the Veto” (Tusk) and “Maggie the Veto” (Kidawa-Błońska). Either will face a difficult election against a sitting President who has foreign policy successes to show (relations with the US) and who is a proven campaigner and speaker.