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Poland’s opposition PO party votes to choose new leader

PR dla Zagranicy
Paweł Kononczuk 22.12.2015 12:09
Members of Poland’s opposition Civic Platform (PO) are voting to choose a new leader who will face the task of reviving the party’s fortunes following its crushing defeat in Poland’s October general elections.
Grzegorz Schetyna. Photo: flickr.com/Senat RP
Grzegorz Schetyna. Photo: flickr.com/Senat RP

Former foreign minister Grzegorz Schetyna, a political heavyweight and PO veteran, is running against ex-defence minister Tomasz Siemoniak. The winner will have to try to put the wind back into the party’s sails, which according to some polls has now slipped to third place.

After eight years in power, a record in post-communist Poland, the centrist PO was heavily defeated by the conservative Law and Justice (PiS) party in the 25 October elections.

Former Prime Minister Ewa Kopacz initially said she would be standing for re-election as PO leader, but pulled out of the race after she lost a vote to select a new head of the party’s parliamentary caucus.

In a drawn-out balloting process, PO members have until 10 January to send in their votes by mail. The results are expected to be announced around 22 January. Everyone who pays party membership fees has the right to vote - some 20,000 people in total.

“The person who becomes the leader of the party will be the person who gives party members hope that its fortunes will change,” Olgierd Annusewicz, a political scientist, told broadcaster TVP.

Highlighting the distance the PO has to make up, a recent IPSOS poll found that the party had fallen to third place, backed by 17 percent of voters, behind the Nowoczesna party, founded earlier this year by economist Ryszard Petru, on 18 percent, and way behind PiS, which was on 33 percent.

Nowoczesna has been climbing in the polls and some observers have said that Petru, highly visible in the media, is now the real leader of the opposition in Poland.

Political scientist Antoni Dudek told TVP, “PO politicians made a catastrophic mistake in arranging […] for a process to choose a new leader that lasts months. It’s obvious that they gave Ryszard Petru a free run.” (pk/rg)

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