Polish opposition party chooses presidential candidate

Leszek Szymański/PAP

Poland’s major opposition party Civic Platform (PO) on Saturday elected deputy parliamentary Speaker Malgorzata Kidawa-Blonska as its candidate for the country’s presidential elections in May of next year.

A total of 345 delegates voted for Kidawa-Blonska at PO's national convention in Warsaw. Her rival, Jacek Jaskowiak, the mayor of Poznan in western Poland, received 125 votes.

"We are starting a big game, which I know we will win, Kidawa-Blonska said just after the announcement of Saturday's results. I won with Jaroslaw Kaczynski (in the local elections - PAP) in Warsaw and I will win with Andrzej Duda," the presidential candidate added.

"We have strength, we have energy, we know what we want. Poles want to support us," Kidawa-Blonska also said, adding that Poles will no longer have to be ashamed of their president. She announced that she would be the president of all Poles.

After the conclusion of the PO's national convention, the party's leader Grzegorz Schetyna declared his support for the presidential candidate. "We we will do everything for Malgorzata to win the presidential election in May," Schetyna told reporters. He also expressed hope that in the first election round Kidawa-Blonska will become a candidate of the whole Civic Coalition centrist grouping (PO, Nowoczesna, Polish Initiative and Greens), and in the second - of the entire opposition.

During the break in the convention's session, PO's National Council decided that the election of the party leader would be held on January 25, and a possible second round on February 8.

It is still unknown whether Schetyna will seek reelection. The will to run for the job was confirmed on Saturday by Senator Bogdan Zdrojewski.

PO caucus head and the party's vice-chairman Borys Budka has also voiced his intention to run for the top position in PO. PO MP Joanna Mucha, who had earlier declared her will to take part in the race, did not make a public announcement on Saturday.

The PO National Convention also adopted a resolution on Saturday which calls on the parliamentary majority to immediately cease work on a bill seeking changes to the judicial system, the so-called "muzzle law".

"The solutions proposed by PiS are incompatible with the constitution, European law, the rule of law, in particular the principle of the separation of powers," the unanimously adopted resolution read. "They constitute repression, an attempt to limit judicial independence, and, finally, an attack on our country's democratic system," it added.

"We perceive the proposed change as an attempt to forcefully exclude Poland from European communities and the circle of Western civilisation," the authors of the resolution also said.

On Thursday, PiS MPs filed a bill that makes it possible to recall judges who "overstep their powers" and introduces changes in the election procedure for the Supreme Court (SN) first president.

Additionally, the new law obliges judges to report what parties they have been members of, in what associations they are active and what internet nickname they use on social media, and bans them from dealing with political matters.