A group of 51 lawmakers from Poland’s main opposition group – including its former leader, Grzegorz Schetyna – have written a letter warning that, without “far-reaching changes”, the party will never be able to win elections.

The intervention comes amid a growing crisis for the centrist Civic Platform (PO), which has seen its aim to create a united opposition coalition collapse and its position as the leading opposition party challenged by the rise of a new movement, Poland 2050 (Polska 2050).

Polish parliament approves EU Covid fund amid splits in ruling coalition and opposition

“We have reached a tipping point,” reads the letter, which was leaked to the Polish Press Agency (PAP) last week. “Without far-reaching changes we have no chance of maintaining the position of leader of the opposition and of winning elections in the future.”

The signatories argue that the current national-conservative Law and Justice (PiS) government has disastrously mismanaged the pandemic, “used power mechanisms to build private financial fortunes, and “pushed [Poland] to the margins” in international affairs.

Yet, “despite our actions exposing the authoritarian and corrupt essence of the current government and their ineptitude in fighting the pandemic, PiS remains the leader in public support”.

Those putting their name to the letter – who also include current PO deputy leader Bartosz Arłukowicz and the head of its Senate caucus, Marcin Bosacki – call for “internal discussion to develop a strategy for the future”.

They urge the party to look “beyond the electorate in big cities” and once against “represent the dreams of Poles regardless of where they live”. They also hint that this should include space for more conservative voices: “people have the right to ask questions about the nature of modernity and its challenges to our values and lifestyle”.

The letter contains veiled criticism of current party leader Borys Budka, who replaced Schetyna last year but has failed to change PO’s fortunes and remains personally unpopular in polls. “A renewed PO means effective leadership, capable of making quick decisions and able to create a long-term plan,” write the signatories.

Civic Platform turns 20: is Poland’s “zombie party” now undermining opposition to PiS?

After the letter was published by PAP on Friday, one of those who signed it, Paweł Zalewski, publicly confirmed his view that PO “needs strong leadership, effective organisational work, and a good programme for Poland. We must renew the party so that it is attractive to 40% of voters (as it used to be) and not 20% (as it is today)”.

However, PO’s secretary general, Marcin Kierwiński, who was not among the signatories, played down the letter’s significance and expressed backing for Budka. “Internal dialogue is not unusual in PO”, which “is still in the process of change that began with the election of Borys Budka”, he told Gazeta Wyborcza.

But an anonymous senior opposition figure, speaking to Super Express, claimed that “Budka has no control over the situation in PO any more” and “it is only a matter of time before he is removed”.

Second lawmaker defects from Poland’s main opposition party this week

PO led Poland’s government from 2007 to 2015, under the leadership of Donald Tusk. Since then, it has lost six elections – parliamentary, presidential, European and local – in a row to PiS.

In that time, it has sought to build various political alliances. It currently leads the Civic Coalition (KO), which also includes the liberal Modern (Nowoczesna) and the Greens (Zieloni) and is the largest opposition group in the Sejm, the lower house of Poland’s parliament.

However, the Poland 2050 movement – founded last year by independent presidential candidate Szymon Hołownia – has recently replaced KO as the most popular opposition group in polls. Two lawmakers aligned with KO defected to the rival group earlier this year.

In February, Budka unveiled a strategy aimed at uniting all opposition groups from left to centre-right in a coalition to oust PiS. That was met with a lukewarm reception from potential partners, and last week other parties ignored KO’s calls to vote against ratification of the European Union coronavirus recovery fund.

Opposition politician leads Polish trust ranking for first time in two years

A glimmer of hope was offered last year when KO’s candidate for the presidency, Warsaw mayor Rafał Trzaskowski, finished a close second to the incumbent, PiS-backed Andrzej Duda, in presidential elections.

But Trzaskowski has subsequently failed to build on the momentum he generated. His launch of a “social movement” later in the year was repeatedly delayed, and since getting off the ground it has had little visibility.

There have also been concerns – echoed in the newly published letter – that, while Trzaskowski may appeal to more urban, liberal voters, he could repel the more conservative small-town electorate that PO needs to win back if it is to return to power.

Main image credit: Platforma Obywatelska RP/Flickr (under CC BY-SA 2.0)

Pin It on Pinterest

Support us!