Jarosław Kaczyński, leader of Poland’s ruling Conservatives (PiS), has responded to Donald Tusk’s challenge to a TV debate on October 9 saying that he does not want to talk to someone who is “a liar” and “dependent on others”.
He also said he had a prior engagement outside Warsaw that he would not cancel.
Kaczyński said at a public meeting on October 5: “I have just been asked whether I will take part in a debate with, among others, Tusk. I already have a scheduled public meeting in Przysucha on that day. What to choose? A conversation with a liar, a person who is completely dependent on others, you know who.
“Well, maybe if it was [a debate with EPP leader] Manfred Weber. But him [Tusk]? I prefer Przysucha,” he added.
Also on October 5, Tusk, speaking at an election meeting in Rzeszów in, South-Eastern Poland, said that he will take part in the debate between all parties on October 9 on public television network TVP. He challenged Kaczyński to face him then.
It is a statutory requirement for public television to stage at least one debate between all the parties. They will each have one representative in attendance who will be quizzed by TVP presenters. They will also have a limited amount of time to make their own uninterrupted statements.
The six parties that have met the requirements for fielding candidates in all the parliamentary constituencies in the national elections on October 15 are PiS, the Tusk-led KO, Left, Third Way, Confederation and Local Government Independents.
Tusk’s move to participate in the TVP broadcast is something of a surprise. Until recently his party was refusing to appear on the station’s programmes, claiming it is heavily biased against the opposition and its leader.
Tusk recently pledged that within 24 hours of coming to office he would oust the TVP management.
Referring to Kaczyński during his campaign meeting, Tusk said: “Maybe you have the courage to debate me at least on your television station under the wing of your functionaries.”
He was alluding to the fact that he has repeatedly called on Kaczyński to take part in a public debate on commercial TV and that PiS has refused to participate in discussions scheduled by the commercial TVN network. PiS considers that station is biased against the government.
Kaczyński and his party have consistently argued that Tusk is heavily influenced by Germany and Weber, who hails from that country. Both Kaczyński and Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki have said they want to debate with Weber and not Tusk.
PiS has not officially nominated its representative at the TV debate on October 9 but sources say it is likely to be Morawiecki, who will represent the party at the event.
According to most commentators, Tusk has managed to seize the initiative by taking part in the TVP debate. He has already said he will ask about Kaczyński’s absence during those discussions in an attempt to show-up the PiS leader for having backed out.
Tusk is claiming that his party has almost caught up with PiS in the polls. He said his bloc’s private polling conducted after October 1’s opposition mass-march in Warsaw put him less than 1 per cent behind the ruling party.
That is not verifiable as he did not reveal which polling agency was used in the survey nor the methodology.