Locking tusks: Poland’s last-minute challenge

Locking tusks: Poland’s last-minute challenge

The European Council is set to vote on a new president on Thursday. Incumbent Donald Tusk, a Pole, is widely

Photo: European Council

The European Council is set to vote on a new president on Thursday. Incumbent Donald Tusk, a Pole, is widely expected to be reelected for another 30-month term. But his home government threw a spanner in the works on Saturday, announcing it would back conservative Jacek Saryusz-Wolski (another Pole) for the top job.

No precedent exists for such competition; there’s not been a contested re-election since 2009, when the post was created. EU rules mandate that a candidate must be backed by at least 16 of the bloc’s 28 member states and also receive votes from countries that together make up 65% of the total EU population.

Poland’s sudden rejection of Donald Tusk’s bid is steeped in domestic politics. Mr Tusk, a former Polish prime minister, shares a bitter rivalry with the chairman of the country’s ruling nationalist party, Jaroslaw Kaczynski.

More broadly, the current Polish government is critical of the liberal policy fixes frequently proffered by Brussels – which in turn has criticised it for undermining the rule of law and instituting creeping authoritarianism.

Ultimately, while it’s likely Mr Tusk will be reelected on Thursday, the last-minute turmoil once more underscores the deep divisions in Europe – ones that are unlikely to go away anytime soon.

Dig deeper: A challenging year for the European Union