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05/12/2016

Poland: Will Ewa Kopacz be an Iron Lady or a Tusk puppet?

Central Europe

Poland: Will Ewa Kopacz be an Iron Lady or a Tusk puppet?

Ewa Kopacz [Reuters]

While Council President-elect Donald Tusk is “polishing his English”, before he assumes his post on 1 December, Ewa Kopacz, his successor as Prime Minister, is confronted with the daunting task of building not only a new cabinet, but also her own political clout and entourage. EurActiv Poland reports.

Over the last 11 years at the helm of the ruling Civic Platform, Donald Tusk secured the position of the strong and “only” leader, effectively cutting off political rivals and reinforcing faithful backers. Now one of those backers got appointed Prime Minister.

Ewa Kopacz, an educated and experienced physician, entered national politics in 2001 as an MP. She has gradually ascended the steps of the political ladder, becoming Head of the Parliamentary Health Committee, followed by Minister of Health, and afterwards, Speaker of the Sejm (the lower chamber of the Polish Parliament) – as the first woman serving this post in Poland, constitutionally, the second most important in the state. On 22 September, she will be sworn in as Prime Minister, the second woman to take the post, following Hanna Suchocka, who led the government in 1992-1993.

Despite her experience, Kopacz’ political entourage is weak. Power in Poland was Tusk, and around Tusk. And now Tusk’s people are packing, hoping to accompany him to Brussels.

Kopacz might choose good people, but will she be a good leader? Polish commentators are expressing doubt, pointing out that Kopacz lacks not only charisma but also authority inside the party, that she is too emotional, and that she has actually been promoted for her loyalty, not competence. However, it is fair to say that no one knows yet how Kopacz will manage the party that she has inherited.

Poland’s new leader has a daunting task facing her, even more so with local elections this November, and the national parliamentary elections next autumn. Kopacz has just a year to build her power base, to prove a good manager of the present interregnum, and a new leader of the Polish political scene. According to analysts, she could be even more successful if she focuses on social issues neglected by the past governments. But Kopacz could also decide to be an ambassador of Tusk, directed from Brussels.

Kopacz will present her new cabinet to the President on 18 September, and make it public the next morning. On 22 September, Kopacz will officially become PM. On 1 October, Parliament will put the proposed cabinet to a confidence vote.

There is speculation that Rados?aw Sikorski, the high-profile Polish Foreign Minister, will replace Kopacz as parliament speaker. 

Background

Poles appear content to have their Prime Minister Donald Tusk elected Council President. However, as he is to be accompanied by his deputy El?bieta Bie?kowska to take a Commissioner job in Brussels, Tusk's government seem to be entering a period of interregnum.

Poles were surprised by Tusk's decision to leave domestic politics. Until the very last minute, he was telling his closest collaborators that he had not intended to compete for EU jobs. It was also unexpected that Bie?kowska would so suddenly decide to change her circumstances, leaving behind a super-office that had been built especially for her.

>> Read: ‘Golden political couple’ to be missed in Warsaw

Further Reading