Friday, July 15, 2011

Poland's Tony Blair

The one thing I always liked about Tony Blair was the one thing I hated: the fact that if he were selling used cars, I know I'd buy the biggest lemon on the lot and be pleased as punch with it until I woke up the next day and discovered the clunker in my garage. I wouldn't hate Tony for it. I'd be disappointed with myself. Poles see Donald Tusk much the same way, according to a recent survey. 

Some 65% of Poles found Tusk amiable as opposed to only 23% who said he wasn't. Over 60% also said he was intelligent, handsome, energetic, and has good presence. Around half said he could persuade people to basically buy used cars. 

The dark side of every used car salesman is they are charlatans who abuse charisma and a good story to pinch your money. This is in part what Poles thought of Tusk. Some 65% said his word did not carry much weight. Another 55% said he only looked out for his and his party's interests. A full 53% said he can't finish what he started and 49% said he had no control over his ministers. 

Some of the anti-government media suggest Tusk has major problems with his image, and have based their arguments on the above-figures. I agree negative numbers don't look good. And yet. 

This late into his term and only three or so months before general elections, Donald Tusk is king compared with any other prime minister. You think Jaroslaw Kaczynski's polling levels would be any better? They would have been similar, just without the positives. Pre-Kaczynski PM Kazimierz Marcinkiewicz and SLD PMs Marek Belka and Leszek Miller were definitely not loved when they left the PM's chair. Jerzy Buzek is widely liked, but I guarantee no one shed a tear for him in 2001 after he led a rightist government for four stormy years. 

It looks like the PO will sweep to victory on October 9 and Tusk will be the sexy leading man Poles seem to see him as. But, as with Tony Blair, the problem will begin with the encore. Expectations will rise sharply. The track record will start to look worse. And by 2015, when the following elections are scheduled, Tusk will likely look back with envy at how much Poles currently "like" him.

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