Donald Tusk is a close ally of Ursula von der Leyen, but he could be her rival for the job of President of the EC after his success in toppling the Conservative (PiS) government in Poland EPA-EFE/OLIVIER HOSLET


Tusk may be PM for a year, then seek to succeed von der Leyen


Donald Tusk told allies he may only be PM for a year, and then return to Brussels to succeed Ursula von der Leyen as European Commission president.

Tusk made the statements in coalition negotiations to form Poland’s new government, reports Polish radio station Zet.

Tusk may be more interested in serving as Poland’s president, which would also involve leaving the role of PM early.

Tusk said in the election campaign he wanted 400 days to hold members of the outgoing government to account, and its appointees from state companies, public media, and the judiciary.

He wants to do this task with an “iron broom”, and is then prepared to hand over to “people who are of a more delicate disposition”.

The next year will also see local government elections, followed by May’s MEP elections that will see the new European Commission emerge from negotiations between the European Council and the European Parliament.

Polish presidential elections will follow in spring 2025, with Andrzej Duda ending his second and final term as head of state.

Other figures in Poland’s new majority may also be interested in standing, including speaker Szymon Hołownia from the Third Way Alliance and Warsaw mayor Rafał Trzaskowski.

By autumn 2024, the new government will have served a year, a new European Commission will have been elected, and candidates will be making up their mind whether to stand in presidential elections.

Rafał Trzaskowski, who lost narrowly to Andrzej Duda in 2019, has been a leading possible presidential candidate for Donald Tusk’s Civic Coalition (KO).

However, since Tusk’s return to lead the KO, Trzaskowski can only confidently rely on being Warsaw’s mayor again after 2024’s local elections.

Tusk’s allies say since Trzaskowski intends to stand again as Warsaw mayor he is obliged to fulfil his second five-year term there, rather than stand for president a year later.

However, both Tusk’s party and his Brussels allies in Brussels will remember when Tusk last left Poland for a prominent EU post, his liberal Civic Coalition lost power.

Donald Tusk became president of the European Council in 2014, a year ahead of the Polish presidential and parliamentary elections.

His party lost both of these to the conservative PiS and remained out of power for the next eight years.

Tusk stood previously for president back in 2005. He lost that election in the second round to Jarosław Kaczyński’s twin brother Lech (who perished in an air disaster in Smolensk in 2010).

Tusk then bounced back to lead his party to victory in 2007’s early parliamentary elections.

He chose not to stand for president in 2010, arguing the job of prime minister was more important.

He then opted not to run once again in 2020, arguing he carried too much baggage from his prime ministerial past. He chose instead to lead the European People’s Party (EPP).

Tusk surprised many therefore when he stepped back into his party’s leadership in the summer 2021, as the party’s poll numbers came under pressure from Szymon Hołownia’s Poland 2050 movement.

Having succeeded in ousting the PiS government in October’s election and forming a governing coalition, Tusk again finds himself in a strong position for either post as president–of the European Council or of Poland.