Polish opposition groups say Donald Tusk is their candidate for prime minister

The leaders of Poland's opposition parties that together won the most votes in Poland’s recent election announced on Tuesday that Donald Tusk, the leader of the largest group, is their candidate to be prime minister and that they want to get to work as soon as possible.

“We are ready to create a government,” Tusk, a former prime minister who heads the Civic Platform party, said as he and other opposition party leaders stood together in parliament to announce their decision to cooperate.

He thanked the other leaders “for your trust.”

The announcement came on the day that President Andrzej Duda opened two days of consultations with the representatives of parties that won seats in the new parliament. Duda first welcomed Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki and others from the conservative ruling Law and Justice party to the presidential palace — but not party leader Jarosław Kaczyński.

Tusk, a pro-EU centrist who is a former president of the European Council, later also met with Duda along with other members of his electoral alliance.

Tuesday’s developments mark important steps on the path to the formation of a government after the national election on 15 October, though it is unclear when a new government can take over in the Central European nation of 38 million people.

The opposition groups who won the most votes campaigned on promises to restore democratic standards and ties with the European Union that worsened over eight years of rule by Law and Justice.

They together won over 54% of the votes and will have a comfortable majority of 248 seats in the 460-seat Sejm, the lower house of parliament. They took an even greater share of the seats in the Senate, though it has far less power.

When a new government will take over depends on Duda. It is the president’s responsibility to call the first meeting of the new parliament, something which must happen no later than 30 days after the election. Duda must also ask a candidate for prime minister to try to build a Cabinet that can win a vote of confidence in the Sejm.

It might not be until December that a new government is sworn in if Duda chooses to wait the full 30 days to call parliament and if he first asks the ruling Law and Justice party to try to build a government.

Tusk said the opposition’s willingness to work together and the fact that it now has a candidate to lead the new government should make Duda’s next steps easier. “I am counting on constructive cooperation with the president and on quick decisions,” Tusk said ahead of his meeting with Duda.

Duda has not yet said what he will do. His is politically allied with Law and Justice and he could tap that party first to give it more time in office.

Law and Justice won more votes than any other single party in the election but it lost its majority and will not hold enough seats to govern the country. The party has been saying it considers itself the winner of the election and should be given the first chance to try to form a government.

Party spokesman Rafal Bochenek, who was at the meeting with Duda, told reporters: “The constitutional custom to date is that the mission of forming the government has been entrusted to the winning party. The winning party is Law and Justice.”

The opposition leaders called on Duda to respect that voters called for change in the country and to quickly tap Tusk as a candidate for prime minister.

“We appeal to President Duda not to waste even a second of our time,” said Szymon Hołownia, head of the centrist Poland 2050 party that is one of two parties in the Third Way electoral coalition.

Duda will continue his consultations on Wednesday with the leaders of Third Way and the New Left, who are backing Tusk, as well as with the far-right party Confederation.