The big tent': star names and surprises on Polands centre-right list

Donald Tusk at the EC

(left to right) Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk; former European Parliament president and election candidate Jerzy Buzek, the President of the European Commission, José Manuel Barroso; and commissioner and election candidate Janusz Lewandowski

Commissioners, former commissioners, ministers, MEPs and sportspeople: Polands centre-right Civic Platform (PO) has an eclectic slate for the European election.

The list of candidates is due to be finalised this weekend (22 March), but the party which leads the government in Warsaw published the names of its lead candidates last week, with some surprising names.

By 15 April the PO lists and those of other Polish parties, such as the centre-left Democratic Left Alliance and the centrist Europa Plus Your Movement, which have already named their candidates will have to be lodged with the election authorities.

See our list of European Parliament election candidates in Poland

Although behind the conservative Law and Justice (PiS) party in the opinion polls, support for PO seems to be growing again, partly in reaction to the crisis in neighbouring Ukraine. The centre-right party led by Prime Minister Donald Tusk (pictured above) - has put forward a set of candidates carefully designed to capitalise on this growth in support.

Firstly the big names: the current Commissioner for Financial Programming and the Budget, Janusz Lewandowski (pictured left), will lead the PO list in the Pomeranian constituency and its major city, Gdańsk. His predecessor as Polands nominee to the Commission and current head of the POs delegation in the European Parliament, Danuta Hübner, will lead the list in Warsaw.

Three former ministers have also found places on the lists. Barbara Kudrycka who was science and higher education minister until last year will lead the list in the Podlaskie and Warmian-Masurian region. Michał Boni, Minister of Administration and Digitisation from 2011 to 2013, is second on the Warsaw list, behind Hübner, with current MEP Paweł Zalewski third (although Zalewski is expected to gain more votes than Boni).

Jacek Rostowski, ousted as finance minister in the same reshuffle that saw the departures of Kudrycka and Boni leads the list in the Kuyavian-Pomeranian region. Rostowski is presented at the heir-apparent to Lewandowski as Polands nominee to the Commission.

See our list of potential nominees to the European Commission from Poland

However, local PO politicians are concerned that Rostowski divides opinion, and may not be a vote-grabber. The list is therefore given a boost by Otylia Jędrzejczak, a multiple swimming champion and Olympic gold medal winner, who is expected to win more votes than Rostowski.

One current minister Bogdan Zdrojewski, who holds the culture porfolio will lead the list in Lower Silesian and Opole and its main city, Wrocław.

Zdrojewski replaces Jacek Protasiewicz, a vice-president of the European Parliament who lost the leadership of the PO delegation and his spot as a candidate after allegedly insulting a customs officer at Frankfurt airport. Another MEP, Jacek Saryusz-Wolski, leads the list in Łódź, while a third, Róża Gräfin von Thun und Hohenstein, heads the list in Lesser Poland and Świętokrzyskie (Kraków).

Elżbieta Łukacijewska MEP heads the list in the Subcarpathian constituency, former European Parliament president Jerzy Buzek MEP is top in the Silesian constituency, and Julia Pitera, a member of the national parliament, is number one in the Masovian constituency.

Among the PO stars there were some surprises, as Donald Tusk build a broad ideological base a big tent for the election campaign. The main surprise was that Michał Kamiński, an MEP in the European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR) Group  indeed, the chair of the Group from 2009 to 2011 will head the list in Lublin.

His selection is seen as a bid to win the conservative vote in a region where PiS is more popular than PO. Kamiński  who left PiS in 2010 and formed Poland Comes First, another conservative group is the former Secretary of State at the Chancellery of President Lech Kaczyński. However, Kamińskis chances of winning a seat are thought to be relatively low.

The ideological breadth of the PO candidates is highlighted by the selection of Agnieszka Kozłowska-Rajewicz, from the liberal wing of the party, in Greater Poland, where she will go head-to-head with popular MEP Marek Siwiec currently in the Socialists and Democrats Group in the European Parliament, but representing the centrist Europe Plus Your Movement in the election.

Dariusz Rosati, who sat as an MEP in the Socialist Group from 2004 to 2009, will lead the list in Lubusz and West Pomeranian but, as he is not from the region, may find it difficult to gain support from local political structures.

Tadeusz Zwiefka, an MEP, will head the PO’s election committee (another role relinquished by Protasiewicz) and is third on the list headed by Rostowski and Jędrzejczak. Election planning is likely to be supported by Paweł Graś (an MP) and Michał Kamiński.

It also appears that Donald Tusk managed to remove the names of potential closely associated with Grzegorz Schetyna, a former speaker of the Polish parliament and leader of a rival faction. MEPs Filip Kaczmarek and Piotr Borys both failed to obtain positions that would give them a real chance of winning election.

Claudie-Marie Smolen  CEC Government Relations, Warsaw
Additional material and editing by David OLeary  Burson-Marsteller Brussels

For more information on CEC Government Relations, Burson-Marstellers public affairs affiliate in Poland, go to cecgr.com/our-offices/warsaw