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The Civic Platform (pl. Platforma Obywatelska – PO) board meeting on Friday took almost five hours. The party authorities were deciding on who should replace Małgorzata Kidawa-Błońska on the presidential ballot. At the end of the day, there was no surprises – it appointed the Mayor of Warsaw Rafal Trzaskowski, widely rumoured to be the preferred candidate of the party establishment from the moment that gossip about Kidawa-Błońska’s withdrawal started to circulate. Trzaskowski’s nomination was announced by the party leaders on Friday in the Sejm building.

- The unanimous recommendation of the PO board, presented to our coalition partners, is to have Rafal Trzaskowski as our candidate- said Borys Budka, the leader of PO.

Małgorzata Kidawa-Błońska was standing next to him. In a sign of party-wide unity, she added: - I believe that we will win this election. We are determined, we have a good team and we know what to do. In few weeks, we will stand here and celebrate the fact that we have a new president.

Trzaskowski offered a short speech to launch his campaign.

- I stand before you as a candidate who takes on the responsibility of fighting for democracy. Thanks to the opposition, the local authorities, the Senate and Małgorzata Kidawa-Błońska, we will now all have a chance to participate in the presidential election. One which will be secret, universal, democratic. It will not be easy, and they will relentlessly attack us. But we will win this election, because there are more people of good will, there are more of us who can no longer tolerate the constant breaking of the law  and of our constitution- said Trzaskowski.

He assured the voters that he is going to fight for a strong Poland.

- I am going to fight for a country that have learned the lessons of the last thirsty years, but also does not throw away everything that we have managed to achieve. I will stand for a country with strong local government, for a country that does not offend its partners and interlocutors. I will fight for a strong and democratic country, based on the rule of law.

- he concluded.

Adam Szłapka, the leader of Nowoczesna, which together with PO and several smaller movements form the Civic Coalition, stressed that the broad opposition block remains a good project. He thanked Małgorzata Kidawa Błońska for siding with values, and for her "stubbornness and steadfast attitude" which, in Civic Coalition’s view, stopped Jarosław Kaczyński from going through with his plan to have the May 10 elections at all cost.

Barbara Nowacka, the leader of Inicjatywa Polska, another member of the Civic Coalition, defended the legacy of Kidawa-Błońska’s short-lived campaign.

- Małgorzata, we owe you not only our thanks, but also enormous respect for the determination that you have shown by standing on the side of values. Because of that, they have lied about you and persecuted you. You have paid a high price for your integrity in politics.  If it hadn't been for you, we would have already had these fraudulent elections. You were the only candidate with the courage to call for a boycott - Nowacka said. She then turned to the Mayor of Warsaw: - You showed us how to win [the Warsaw mayoral election in 2018, during which Trzaskowski beat the Law and Justice candidate by almost 30 pp.), and you showed us that you are not afraid of ugly calumnies. Rafał – we stand with you.

Radosław Sikorski, current MEP and the former Minister of Foreign Affairs who launched a behind the curtains campaign over the last days to get the party nomination over Trzaskowski, also offered a public sign of support to the new candidate.

- The current authorities make a mockery of Poland in the eyes of the world. They violate the constitution. It is Rafał Trzaskowski’s task to stop them once and for all. Rafał, we urge you to win it! You will be a good president. - ended Sikorski, who also ran for the Civic Platform party nomination in 2010, losing to Bronisław Komorowski.  

Kidawa withdraws

Friday morning began with a statement by Deputy Speaker of the Sejm Małgorzata Kidawa-Błońska im which she announced that she is withdrawing her candidacy from the presidential election.

Kidawa-Błońska admitted that she was responsible for her continuous collapse in polling. – The polls were strongly influenced by the fact that Poles were confused about whether I am taking part in the election.” – Kidawa-Błońska explained, referring to the fact that she called for her voters to boycott the election when it appeared all but certain that it would take place by mail on May 10.

-The most important thing for me, however, was the people’s health, their safety and the fact that Poland needed to remain a democratic and a European country - she argued. - I do not want the burden of my weak polling to be put on the Civic Coalition, I take this responsibility.

She declared that she will always tell the truth, regardless of the consequences, because “a politician must be brave, and must tell the truth”. In Poland "there are two safety valves that aim to slow down the government’s unlawful actions - one is the Senate, the other is our local government". She explained that she could not remain silent "when those in power came up with their devilish idea of holding an election in the middle of a pandemic, disregarding the health of those who would take part in them and those who would organize them. What is more, they wanted to hold these elections illegally, ignoring the constitution and the principles of a democratic state.”

- I had to say it out loud, and if it hadn't been for my strong voice and my recommendation to boycott the ballot, the election in May would probably have taken place. My suggestion got a lot of traction, people started to talk about it, Kaczynski had to deal with dissent within his own camp, the Senate and local government officials showed iron resolve and gave us a chance for free and democratic elections. My hope is that Poles will take part in such election. – Kidawa-Błońska ended in an attempt to clear any confusion about whether part of the Civil Coalition is still entertaining a boycott.

Polls favour Trzaskowski

At the same time that Kidawa-Błońska was giving her resignation speech in the Sejm, the first members of the PO’s board arrived at the party’s headquarters in Wiejska Street, right next to the parliamentary complex. A board meeting was scheduled for 10 a.m. to decide on a new candidate. Negotiations with Kidawa-Błońska lasted through the whole Thursday and ended late in the evening.

There were two candidates in the running to replace her: the Mayor of Warsaw Rafal Trzaskowski, hand-picked by the leader of PO Borys Budka and his surroundings, and the former Minister of Foreign Affairs Radosław Sikorski, who threw his hat into the ring himself and managed to convince several important members of the party during the run-up to the board meeting.

At the last moment, the party authorities ordered a slew of updated presidential preferences polls to evaluate who among politicians associated with the party would be the most popular candidate.

According to our information, the polls showed that Trzaskowski had the second best polling numbers and second-best chance to get to the second, run-off election round against the incumbent President Andrzej Duda. The only potential name with better polls? Donald Tusk, the former Prime Minister and President of the European Council who struck down all suggestions of running against Duda ever since his term in Brussels ended in November last year. In the party-ordered surveys, Kidawa-Błońska showed close to no chances of making it to the run-off round, polling significantly behind both the media personality Szymon Hołownia and the leader of the agrarian party Władysław Kosiniak-Kamysz.

***

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