Leading article: Conflict, restraint and a fresh start


The leader of Poland's Civic Platform party, Donald Tusk, says that he is well on the way to concluding a coalition deal with the Peasants Party. By the recent post-electoral standards of Central and Eastern Europe, this is impressive progress. It testifies both to the clarity of Civic Platform's victory on 21 October and to Mr Tusk's determination to start governing. And it augurs well for Poland, for its friends abroad and for its partners in the European Union.

The tentative Cabinet line-up is also promising, including as it does a quotient of well-qualified professionals who favour speeding up economic reforms and Poland's full participation in the European Union. Both the finance minister designate, Jacek Rostowski, and the favourite for foreign minister, Radek Sikorski, combine expertise and energy. They also share a commitment to establish Poland as a cooperative member of the EU, rather than the one-country awkward squad it has too often been. Add Mr Tusk's undertaking to withdraw Poland's 900 troop contingent from Iraq before the end of next year, and the extent of Poland's likely policy reorientation is evident.

Along with his concern to get down to the task of governing, Mr Tusk is also showing a wise degree of restraint. Jaroslaw Kaczynski, the defeated Prime Minister and twin brother of the President, is not due to step down until 5 November. President Lech Kaczynski then has two weeks to nominate a new Prime Minister. By rights, he should call immediately on Mr Tusk. But there have been signs that he might manoeuvre to stave off the appointment of a new government, leaving Poland in an awkward limbo.

The President has already signalled a potentially major area of conflict with Mr Tusk, reiterating his opposition to the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights – one of the documents that replaces the aborted constitutional treaty. The Kaczynski twins feared that it could pave the way for German claims to property in Poland. They also felt that it could undermine Poland's national identity, and – like Britain – secured an opt-out. Mr Tusk's Civic Platform, however, would like to sign up, as part of returning Poland to the EU mainstream. President Kaczynski could stymie that by blocking high-level military and diplomatic appointments.

We hope that he resists this temptation. The "cohabitation" to come may not be comfortable. But Donald Tusk and his Civic Platform party won the election fair and square, on a near record turn-out of 80 per cent. If they can clinch a parliamentary majority in coalition with the Peasants Party, they should be given the chance to govern.

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