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Donald Tusk, Poland Prime Minister, Intends To Keep Government Coalition

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TUSK MAINTAINS GOVERNMENT
Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk during an electoral meeting of his Civic Platform party on October 6, 2011. (Getty Images) | Getty

WARSAW, Poland — Poland's re-elected prime minister intends to maintain his ruling coalition with a small farm-based party and expects no government shake-up until the new year, according to an interview published Tuesday.

After winning weekend elections, Donald Tusk held intensive talks on forming a new coalition government to guide the country as its booming economy is expected to lose momentum.

Tusk, whose Civic Platform won the most votes in Sunday's election, will hold a second round of talks with Waldemar Pawlak, head of the Polish People's Party, Tusk's junior coalition partner.

But he told the weekly magazine Polityka that he sees no need to seek a new coalition partner and doesn't want any shake-up in his Cabinet while Poland holds the European Union's rotating presidency through Dec. 31. Changes can be expected early next year, he said in an interview published by Polityka.

The EU presidency does not give Poland much real power, but it has symbolic significance for the ex-communist country, which is holding it for the first time. Polish leaders are eager for the country to be seen as a source of stability during their six-month term.

Tusk's party is a center-right pro-European group while Pawlak's is conservative and mainly represents farmers' interests. Their coalition over the past four years appeared to be harmonious and created an image of stability that helped Tusk win re-election.

A meeting between Tusk and Pawlak on Monday was inconclusive. Pawlak, who has been Tusk's deputy prime minister and economy minister, said they needed more time to hammer out conditions for a coalition in what is expected to be a turbulent period for the European economy. Poland's currency and stock markets have been battered lately as anxieties in Europe have deepened.

Though Poland managed to avoid recession during the last financial crisis of 2008-09, economists warn that it might not get that lucky again if Europe slumps into another recession. Its growth rate of 4 percent this year is expected to lose momentum, with growth predicted for about 3 percent next year.

Tusk has promised a major shake-up of the government in his second term. Pawlak said Tusk might also explore cooperating with other parties that made it into parliament.

According to complete voter returns, Tusk's and Pawlak's parties could have a slim majority of 235 votes in the 460-member parliament.

The full returns show that Civic Platform won 39.18 percent support and the opposition conservative Law and Justice of Jaroslaw Kaczynski won 29.89 percent.

A surprise for third place is a new leftist party, Palikot's Movement, with 10.02 percent, followed by the Polish People's Party, which won 8.36 percent, and the Democratic left Alliance with 8.24 percent.

Janusz Palikot, the head of Palikot's Movement, said he was ready to support the Civic Platform-led government without asking for government positions.

"We are ready to support a government that Poland is waiting for: a government tailored to face the crisis, to face the challenges, a breakthrough government of the 21st century," Palikot told reporters.

His movement, with a broad liberal program, is introducing into parliament Poland's first transsexual lawmaker, Anna Grodzka, and its first openly gay man, Robert Biedron.

"I did not believe it would be possible (to be chosen as a lawmaker)," Grodzka told the Gazeta Wyborcza daily. "I am happy and bewildered."

Biedron, who has been campaigning for gay rights, told Gazeta Wyborcza that his membership in parliament is a "sign that we are a different society now, open and tolerant."

"I am very proud of us all."

According to official results, Civic Platform will have 207 lawmakers in the 460-seat lower house. The opposition Law and Justice will have 157 lawmakers, Palikot's Movement 40, the Polish People's Party 28 and the Democratic Left Alliance 27. There will be one lawmaker representing the ethnic German minority.

Tusk's party also won a prevailing majority of 63 votes in the 100-member upper house, or Senate. The new parliament is expected to convene at the end of October.

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