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POLAND'S ELECTIONS: Donald Tusk The Polish Dream Coming True. (40-45%)
AIA ^ | 01.10.2005 | Simon Araloff

Posted on 10/03/2005 11:30:38 AM PDT by lizol

POLAND'S ELECTIONS: Donald Tusk – The Polish Dream Coming True. (40-45%)

Simon Araloff, AIA European section

He was born in Gdansk in April 22, 1957. Married (his wife Malgorzata is a historian), has two children (daughter Kasia, 16 years old, and son Michal, 23 years old). Both parents of the future candidate to the president's of Poland position survived the Second World War, went through the concentration camps and compulsory labor. Donald himself was born twelve years after the war, but he was brought up on the tales about its horrors. Moreover, his father, who was a carpenter, died when his son had just finished the junior school – the health of Tusk – senior was damaged during the war. This is the explanation of Donald Tusk's today's attitude to Germany, and of his antagonism of German revanshists moods.

Draft of the young Donald Tusk to the politics brought him to the rows of fighters against the Communist regime already at the early stage of his studies in Gdansk University (Uniwersytet Gdanski), on the faculty of history. That was the period of growing discontent over Communist authorities in Poland. In May 1977, as the answer to the murder of Yagellonsk University (Uniwersytet Jagiellonski) student's leader Stanislaw Pyjas by the Polish security service (Sluzba Bezpieczenstwa), the so-called Students' Solidarity Commettee (Studencki Komitet Solidarnosci) – the first organization of such kind in Eastern Europe - was created. The task of the Committee was to defend students' rights, and to struggle against the communist regime in the country. Donald Tusk was one of the active participants of its creation. Regardless of this, in 1980, he successfully finished his studies in the university, obtaining historian's diploma (his coursework was dedicated to the national hero, Marshal Josef Pilsudski).

Same year, 1980, on the tide of the massive workers' strikes in the country, Donald Tusk took an active part in establishment of the Independent Movement of the Polish Students (Niezalezne Zrzeszenie Studentow Polskich - NZSP). Simultaneously, he worked as an editor in the well-known publishing house, Wydawnitctwo Morskie, and as a publicist in the newspaper of the Home Rule movement. In that period, he was actively cooperating with the newspaper's editor-in-chief, Lech Badkowski, the first press-secretary of the Solidarity movement. The same year, 1980, Tusk joined this movement. After the martial laws were established in the country, and the massive arrests began against the members of the movement in 1981, he was engaged in the underground activity, earning for life as a builder. It is this circumstance, that was actively used in Tusk's current election campaign by his PR-makers, who were presenting him not only as a fighter against Communism, but as a simple man, who once worked as a simple worker.

By the end of the 1980s, Donald Tusk left the Solidarity, moving into the liberal camp. In that period (1989-1991), he developed close ties with such well-known leaders of the liberal movement as Janusz Lewandowski and Jan Krzysztof Bielecki. Together with them, he organized in his native town of Gdansk a liberal association, Kongres Liberalow, and then, in 1991, a liberal party called Liberal Democratic Congress (Kongres Liberalno-Demokratyczny, KLD). This party stood for the free market economy, the privatization of the national enterprises, the individual freedom of citizens, and it also called for the fastest accession of Poland into the EU.

These ideas found a thankful audience among the Polish society. On the parliamentary elections of 1991, Tusk and his comrades got 7.5% of votes (37 places in the Sejm). For that period, when the main force in the Polish politics was the Solidarity movement, this was a considerable success. However, they could not repeat it on the elections of 1993, and the KLD was bound to leave the parliament.

Nevertheless, this failure didn't break Donald Tusk's spirit. A year after his defeat on the parliamentary elections, in March 1994, his Liberal Democratic Congress merged with the Democratic Union (Unia Demokratyczna), which had also split of the Solidarity. They created a new party called Freedom Union (Unia Wolnosci - UW). That was the right decision. On the elections of 1997, UW got 13.4% of votes. Tusk himself was elected to the Senate, where in 1998-2001 he got the position of the Vice-Speaker (Wicemarszalek Senatu).

In January 2001, before the new elections to the Sejm, he made the next step in his life, risky, but as it came up, the correct one. Tusk created, together with representatives of the right wing in UW, new political party, Civic Platform (Platforma Obywatelska – PO). This party stands for the liberal reforms, and for the struggle with corruption in power, as well as for the strict orientation on the US and NATO in the external policy. Tusk's counting upon people's support of these ideas was correct: in 2001, PO got 12.7% of votes. This gave it 65 places in the Parliament and 15 places in the Senate (PO, PiS and three other rightist factions block). Tusk himself was elected the Vice-Speaker of the Sejm, and he occupied this post till the recent elections, 18 September 2005.

The real climbing of Donald Tusk on the top of the Polish political Olympus has been taking place between 2001 and 2005, when he transformed from the leader of a rather modest political party into one of the most influential politicians in the country, one of the two most perspective presidential candidates. There were objective and subjective reasons for that. First of all, self-discredit of the left camp, with SLD in the head, which sinked in political and corruption scandals. Moreover, the fact that the Polish public opinion was strongly influenced by the disability of the leftist governments - like that of Leszek Miller, and to a considerable extent that of Marek Belka – to improve the economical situation in the country, to obtain a better position for Poland in the EU, and to confront more effectively the revanshists moods in neighboring Germany, as well as the rapprochement of Berlin and Moscow. In such atmosphere, the program of the Civic Platform, with its abovementioned postulates, was taken to by many Poles.

As for the subjective reasons, first of all, the good work of Donald Tusk's elections staff should be mentioned, and its skill to effectively use the mass media. In the early summer, the PO staff began a full-scale attack. It used the right moment. When Tusk's opponents went for the vacations, he appeared on hundreds of thousands of banners, and in many TV clips. Tusk's PR specialists used the people's need in a candidate, not involved in the argument between the left and the right camp (between the former Solidarity members and the post-Communists). It was shown to the voters that he will be the president if not of all the Poles, then of the most part of them. Thus, the mass media emphasized not only the fact of his work as a builder, but also his activity in the sphere of literature and history. It came over that Donald Tusk is the author of books about the history of the Polish cities, "Byl sobie Gdansk", "Gdansk 1945", and "Dawny Sopot", which gained a "great popularity" (Wielka popularnosc) among the readers. The problems of one of his opponets in the presidential elections, Wlodzimierz Cimoszewicz, also helped Tusk. When, on September 14, Cimoszewicz announced his going out of the elections race, Tusk took a considerable part of his electorate. And then the Domino effect started acting. Most of the undetermined voters, when seeing the growth of Tusk's support, voted for him. One more factor that helped is that the former Solidarity leader, and the first president of the post-Communist Poland, Lech Walesa officially showed his support of Tusk.

It should be mentioned that Donald Tusk is a defender of the Polish minority in Belarus. He visited Belarus on August 1, went to Grodno, where he expressed his support to the Union of the Belarusian Poles. And already in the beginning of September, together with the leader of the Belarusian Polish community, Andzelika Borys, went to Brussels, to the Secretary General of the Council of Europe, Terry Davis. Besides that, Tusk and Borys spoke to the largest political group of the Europarliament – the European People's Party - about the situation in Belarus. They had a meeting with the delegation of Europarliament for relations with Belarus. Speaking about his visit to Brussels Donald Tusk told that the European politicians are still not ready to support the civil movements in Belarus. According to him, after the wins the presidential elections, he will maximize his efforts to improve the distressful situation of the Belarusian Poles, and to push the democratization of the whole Belarusian society.

TOPICS: Foreign Affairs; News/Current Events; Politics/Elections
KEYWORDS: donaldtusk; election; poland; president; tusk

1 posted on 10/03/2005 11:30:42 AM PDT by lizol
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