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President Andrzej Duda has offered Poland’s current prime minister the opportunity to form the country’s next government with his rightwing Law and Justice (PiS) party even after an opposition coalition led by Donald Tusk won a parliamentary majority last month.
Duda’s decision on Monday to nominate Mateusz Morawiecki to form another administration, although PiS has no clear path to securing a majority, is set to delay the anticipated comeback of Tusk, a former prime minister.
Since the October 15 election, which drew a record turnout of 74 per cent, Tusk had urged Duda to allow him to return to office swiftly, particularly to restore the independence of judges and unlock billions of euros of EU funding that has been withheld by the European Commission in a feud with PiS over judicial reforms. Tusk’s return is seen as pivotal to put Warsaw back on a pro-European path.
The ex-premier is at the helm of a three-way coalition that won a combined 248 of the 460 seats in the Sejm, the lower house of parliament. However, Duda, a PiS appointee himself, resisted the pressure from Tusk and insisted on Monday that it was normal to prioritise the largest party in the next parliament, which remains PiS.
“I decided to continue the good parliamentary tradition according to which the winning party is the first to be given the opportunity to form a government,” Duda said in a televised evening address.
PiS won 194 seats, which means it would need to convince some of Tusk’s coalition legislators to switch sides in order to reach a majority. Still, Morawiecki said in an interview with web portal Interia last week that he had “not packed” to leave office.
He added he would consider becoming a minister in a government led by Władysław Kosiniak-Kamysz, leader of the PSL agrarian party that is part of Tusk’s coalition. However, Kosiniak-Kamysz responded that PSL was committed to removing PiS after eight years in office rather than facilitating a third mandate for them.
Speaking on Monday before Duda’s address, Tusk said “the president knows that we can still play for time, but it is a waste of time and a waste for Poland”.
He added: “If we waste too much time, some of the EU funds may be lost due to their fault,” referring to Duda and PiS. Tusk visited Brussels last month to lobby EU officials for the early release of frozen funds, saying that “all methods, including non-standard ones, must be used to save the money that Poland deserves”.
The stand-off between Duda and Tusk over the nomination also illustrates how Tusk could struggle to cohabit with Duda and other PiS appointees whose terms cannot be terminated early.
Duda has set the reconvening of parliament for November 13. After his official nomination, Morawiecki has 14 days to form a new government. Should a majority of legislators reject his proposal, as expected, Tusk will be given his turn, most likely in early December.
Any further delay could risk a fresh election, because Duda can call a new vote if no government manages to pass a budget by the end of January.