Polish politician Donald Tusk’s liberal opposition has decided to forge an alliance with agrarian populists led by Michał Kołodziejczak in a bid for votes in rural areas.
The militant leader of Poland’s agrarian Agrounia group will stand in the elections for parliament on the Civic Coalition slate, the block led by former Polish prime minister Tusk. The slate also includes members of Poland’s Greens and some smaller centrist and leftist groups but is dominated by the PO, the party Tusk heads and which governed Poland between 2007 and 2015.
The move has raised eyebrows as Kołodziejczak has built his reputation on orchestrating farmers’ protests.
He and his party’s activists were prominent in the demonstrations against Ukrainian grain imports earlier this year that led to the resignation of the ruling party’s agriculture minister Henryk Kowalczyk.
Tusk has taken the decision to forge the alliance with Kołodziejczak hoping to ensure that Agrounia does not field a slate of its own. Such a slate, according to the polls, would have failed to cross the required five per cent threshold, thereby leading to some opposition votes being wasted.
The former PM hopes that Kołodziejczak and his group will draw some voters from the ruling conservative PiS, the party which is dominant in rural Poland. PiS polled more than 50 per cent of the vote in rural areas in the last parliamentary elections in 2019.
Tusk is also well aware that the issue of Ukrainian grain imports is far from settled. The European Commission has accepted an embargo but this expires on September 15, one month ahead of the Polish elections on October 15.
Poland’s silos are reported to still be full of grain imported from Ukraine over past months and Polish farmers are worried about not having the storage they need for their own harvests this year. The opposition is unlikely to be heartbroken should farmers start protesting again.
The PiS has slammed the deal between Tusk and Agrounia, saying Kołodziejczak has sold out to Tusk for a place in parliament.
Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki took to social media to accuse Tusk’s party of having betrayed the interests of rural Poland and of now “having a Putin sympathiser on their slate”.
He was referring to the fact that Kołodziejczak has in the past criticised the Polish Government’s strong stance against Russia as being damaging to farming interests.
Government spokesman Piotr Muller ridiculed the new alliance by reminding that Kołodziejczak has recently attacked the liberals. He cited Kołodziejczak as saying that Tusk, when in office, had turned Poles into a “nomadic tribe” by forcing them to have to go and seek work in the UK and Ireland.
Muller claimed that Kołodziejczak had sold Polish farmers down the river as he has now fully embraced the European People’s Party, until recently led by Tusk, and climate policies that “could destroy Polish agriculture”.
Others point to the fact that Kołodziejczak and his party had sought to be a part of the alliance between the central agrarian, centre-Right Polish People’s Party and the centrist Poland 2050, and that in the past he has flirted with the nationalist far Right.
The ruling PiS are still ahead in polls, although not by enough to secure an overall parliamentary majority.