Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk (L) and culture minister Bartłomiej Sienkiewicz together, but not for much longer. Sienkiewicz has just resigned as culture minister after receiving his party’s nomination to stand for the European Parliament, a body which he has in the past called an “elephants graveyard” for politicians.EPA/RADEK PIETRUSZKA


Minister abandons Poland’s Tusk for ‘elephants’ graveyard’


Three senior Polish ministers with Prime Minister Donald Tusk’s Government have been selected by the Civic Coalition (KO), to stand in the European Parliament elections in June

That is despite one of them, the culture minister Bartłomiej Sienkiewicz, recently describing the EP as an “elephants’ graveyard”, which would result in his “political death” should he be a part of it.

Sienkiewicz told the Polish edition of Newsweek in January he had no plans to stand in the elections. “Let’s drop the idea of my death in the elephants’ graveyard,” he said, adding: “I am not planning my political death for the time being.”

In an interview with commercial TV Polsat on March 15, he said that while those comments were jocular, he was not planning to leave the Polish Government as he already had “enough to do”.

Sienkiewicz and the other two ministers leaving the Government for the EP elections – interior minister Marcin Kierwinski and the minister for state assets Borys Budka – have only been in post since 13 December last year.

Since then, the culture minister has been embroiled in a highly contentious Government takeover of public media, which has been challenged in the courts and has seen 17 heads of cultural bodies and institutes appointed by the previous Conservative (PiS) government being dismissed.

All three ministers have been given the top spots on regional slates for the EP elections and therefore, analysts say, are highly likely to be elected in June. Sienkiewicz has already tendered his resignation to Tusk and Budka has announced he will be leaving as soon as the EP election campaign officially starts at the beginning of May.

The departure of both Sienkiewicz and Budka had been rumoured for several weeks but that of interior minister Marcin Kierwinski came as something of surprise.

There is now speculation that Kierwinski is being “tested” in Warsaw, where he heads the list for the EP elections, ahead of standing for the job of mayor of the capital.

The post of Warsaw Mayor may become vacant next year if its current holder Rafał Trzaskowski stands for and wins the Polish presidential election in the spring of 2025.

Speaking at a press conference on April 24, Tusk justified the departure of three of his ministers by saying the “strength” of their candidacies reflected that “these elections are one of the most important in the post-war history of Poland, even though it is the European Parliament”.

The Civic Platform (PO) leader added that the coming term of the EP “will determine whether we will end up in a war”, which many saw as a reference to the Ukraine conflict.

In a bid to seize the security mantle from the previous PiS government, Tusk went on to say that “the EU must become a bastion” and that border protection and missile defence should be the priorities for the bloc.

He was noticeably irritated by the fact that his party failed to beat PiS in the elections to the Polish regional councils held earlier in April and has put the PO on alert to pull out all the stops to get more votes and seats than the PiS in June’s EP vote.

Tusk’s party has a 3 per cent lead according to polling aggregator Ewybory but, in the regional elections in which millions of Poles voted on April 7, the PO trailed PiS by almost 4 per cent.

The PM wants his party to maintain its poll position ahead of the PiS in the crucial presidential election next year. The PiS-supporting current President Andrzej Duda, who has the power of veto over national legislation, is completing his second term as Head of State and might not stand again.

If Tusk’s party wins the presidency, its position in the ruling coalition between the PO, the centrist Third Way and The Left party will be strengthened.

If, though, the PiS retains the presidency, that coalition will come under threat as the centre-right Polish People’s party (PSL), which is part of the Third Way Alliance, could be tempted to participate in an alternative government made up of itself, the PiS and the right-wing Confederation party.