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-The day has come. Donald Tusk is returning to Polish politics at my invitation- Borys Budka, the Civic Platform’s former leader, announced during the party’s national council meeting on Saturday. He officially resigned from his post, handing over the leadership position to Donald Tusk. Two deputy leaders of the party – Ewa Kopacz and Bartosz Arłukowicz – have also submitted their resignations.

Rafał Trzaskowski, the mayor of Warsaw who for the past several months has been building his position as the leader of Civic Platform’s more progressive wing, remained the party’s deputy chairman. Borys Budka and Donald Tusk were both elected as deputy leaders. According to the Civic Platform’s spokesman Jan Grabiec, the council has approved Tusk's candidacy unanimously (201:0). Budka, on the other hand, received 189 votes, with 10 council members voting against his nomination. As the more senior of the two, Donald Tusk will be leading the party until the end of term. There was no mention of the prospective election date during the council meeting.

"He’s our wonder weapon"

Details of the reshuffle and its potential outcome for each of the party’s three main stakeholders – Borys Budka, Rafał Trzaskowski, and Donald Tusk- remained uncertain until the very end. Asked about what to expect during the party’s national council meeting, members of the Civic Platform and Deputy Senate Majority Leader Bogdan Borusewicz said: "It’ll be interesting, but different from what we all expect". Grzegorz Schetyna, the centrist party’s former leader, remarked that the situation "is our hope for the future and marks a new beginning".

Interviewed by the state broadcaster TVP at the venue where the council meeting took place, MEP Radosław Sikorski has declared the event a pivotal moment in Polish politics. –Donald Tusk is our wonder weapon and we’re not afraid to use it- he said.

Tusk: those who do not believe in their own strength will not win

- Yes, I'm back. I came back one hundred percent. Not only because of my own determination but also because you are a team of truly remarkable people- Tusk opened his speech after taking the stage.

- The political reason is my belief - and nothing will change it - that we need the Civic Platform as an active political force, not as a thing of the past. It is necessary to win the fight against PiS- Tusk said. - The political problem here is not the lack of programs, visions, or ideas. It is important to regain faith in our agency and the possibility of winning. Those who do not believe in their own strength will not win. A party that does not believe in the sense of its own existence will not win. 

Tusk continued: - I’m still not used to what is happening in Poland. We’re going to stand up against the evil that rules in Poland today. This is reason enough; it does not require any further justification. You have to start off from the first commandment: when you see evil, stand up against it and do not ask for additional reasons. 

According to Tusk, PiS’ idea for Poland is taken straight out of a 3D printer – "debt, dues, and dreadfully high prices". - Who will pay for it? Definitely not Kaczyński and his gang. The national debt is something that our grandchildren will have to pay off. 

There were several more jabs at Kaczyński and the ruling party.

- It turns out that people don't like it when the ruling camp steals their money day in day out. So PiS came up with this idea that they convene behind closed doors to discuss how to continue stealing, but without being seen. This is the essence of their meeting - he said, commenting on the analogous party convention PiS held on the same day.

- Everywhere in the world governments have made mistakes. Everywhere in the world there were mistakes, bad strategies. But no other government used this situation to make money. They have used it to cheat, to sell face masks under the table, or buy faulty ventilators. It struck me that they got away with it. I will never get used to it, you will never get used to it either – Tusk commented on the ruling camp’s approach to fighting the pandemic.

Tusk’s media blitz continues 

The following day, Donald Tusk continued his media blitz by holding a 90 minutes long press conference.  He was taking questions from journalists all across the board.

Tusk began the conference by addressing the ruling camp’s attempts to silence free media:

- Let me get straight to the point. Yesterday, I said with genuine conviction that I will not get used to the bad standards that are taking place in Poland. One of the bad standards is - and I was very surprised to learn this - that the politicians in charge today do not answer questions. That press conferences are a distant past. Journalists rarely even have an opportunity to ask questions. Today, I am making myself available - he announced.

Suffice it to mention few examples from recent days: the PiS party convention took place behind closed doors, media were not invited, and journalists were not allowed to ask questions after Jarosław Kaczyński’s statements. During official government conferences, journalists asking about the ongoing email leak scandal were silenced.

Questions about the future of the Civic Coalition, abortion rights, and free-market policies

The former head of the European Council also attacked the ruling party for its recently announced plans to form an alliance with Europe’s right-wing leaders. On Friday, Jarosław Kaczyński announced that European conservatives will be joining forces to fight against Europe’s "cultural revolution". Among them are the Brothers of Italy, Matteo Salvini's Lega, Santiago Abascal's Vox, Marine Le Pen's Rassemblement Nationa, and the Hungarian Fidesz. Tusk was unambiguous in his assessment that the alliance represents a threat to Poland's national security by pushing the country into Vladimir Putin's sphere of influence.

Asked about the future of the Civic Coalition, he announced that he would meet with its club members in the Parliament.

- I wish all the best to everyone for whom restoring moral order in Poland, the rule of law, and human rights is a priority. I also wish all the best to the leaders of other parties with whom I would like to cooperate as partners- Tusk said. He announced that he will formally be able to combine his role as the leader of the Civic Platform and head the European People's Party. He intends to finish his term but said he will then hand over the EPP chair to someone else.

- We have a congress in the autumn. There, I will announce that my term is coming to an end one way or another, and I will start urgent consultations for the transfer of my office in Europe. This may take several months – the ex-Prime Minister explained.

He also announced that he would respect the Civic Platform's position on abortion adopted in February.

One of the journalists asked whether under his leadership the Civic Platform would move closer towards free-market policies.

- Contrary to the current fashion, the word 'liberalism' doesn’t make me feel uncomfortable. I am attached to the etymology of the word. I was born and will die as a liberal. But I am a faithful disciple of Leszek Kołakowski's idea that wise people who want to organize public life must be liberal-social-conservatives because there is something valuable in each of these traditions- Tusk said.

***

Every day, 400 journalists at Gazeta Wyborcza write verified, fact-checked stories about Polish politics and society, keeping a critical eye on the ruling camp’s persistent assault on democratic values and the rule of law; the growing cultural tension between religious fundamentalism and human rights; and the ongoing COVID-19 epidemic. Our journalists are on the front lines in 25 Polish cities, reporting from the streets, hospitals, and courtrooms about issues that move public opinion.

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