Tusk’s Uphill Battle Against Authoritarian Legacy

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Poland’s newly appointed Prime Minister, Donald Tusk, faces a challenging initiation into office as he attempts to untangle the country from the political influence of the Law and Justice (PiS) party, accused of steering Poland towards authoritarianism during its eight-year rule. Tusk’s pro-European government, seeking to liberate public media from PiS control, recently liquidated state media due to a funding dispute with President Andrzej Duda, a known ally of the right-wing PiS.

Complex Political Landscape and Legacy Reversal

Veteran politician and former European Council president, Tusk, aims to reverse the alleged damage to Poland’s democracy inflicted by PiS. However, the path ahead is far from straightforward. Supporters of Tusk believe that PiS has undermined Poland’s democracy, while PiS counters that the current government’s actions, such as intervening in public broadcasting management, are authoritarian. Autocratic corruption, partially ingrained in Poland’s political system, has resulted from PiS’s control over the judicial council and public media.

Democratic Prospects and Government Challenges

Wojciech Przybylski, president of Poland’s Res Publica Foundation, suggests that the authoritarian turn under PiS was facilitated by their simple majority in the 2015 election, enabling them to override power-balancing mechanisms. With the new government comprising multiple parties, there is optimism that democracy could improve. However, Tusk’s government faces hurdles in disentangling from PiS, as many appointed officials, including nearly 3,000 judges, are constitutionally protected or require legislation for dismissal.

Legislative Roadblocks and Ethical Dilemmas

Efforts to manage Polish state TV through the National Media Council, predominantly composed of PiS appointees, present legislative challenges. Legislation required to dissolve this body could be vetoed by President Duda, and the government lacks the necessary three-fifths majority to override the veto. Tusk is exploring alternative strategies, though critics find them legally and ethically questionable. With a presidential election in 2025, Tusk’s government may gain more flexibility if Duda is not re-elected.

Diverse Coalition, Programmatic Disputes, and External Pressures

Despite a diverse coalition united by opposition to PiS, Tusk’s government faces internal disagreements, particularly on moral-cultural issues like abortion. The government’s ambitious promises during the election may be challenging to fulfill, with some pledges, like a radical increase in tax-free allowances, already shelved. External challenges, such as the Ukraine war and balancing public finance amid rising military expenses, further complicate Tusk’s early months in power. The upcoming local elections and European Parliament elections may shed light on the potential for change in Poland’s political landscape.

SOURCE: Ref Image from New York Post

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