Position: Prime Minister of Poland
Incumbent: Donald Tusk
Date of Birth: April 22, 1957
Term: Became head of government in November 2007 after his centre-right Civic Platform (PO) won parliamentary election. The next election is expected to take place in October 2011.
A pragmatic centrist, Tusk has largely delivered on his 2007 campaign promise of restoring political stability and predictability to Poland after two turbulent years of rule by a right-wing coalition led by Jaroslaw Kaczynski.
Under Tusk’s leadership, Poland was the only nation in the 27-member European Union to avoid recession last year, though large inflows of EU aid along with tax cuts inherited from Kaczynski played a big part in maintaining economic growth.
-- Tusk is one of Poland’s most popular politicians and his party is tipped to win a fresh four-year term next year, partly due to the lack of a credible opposition. Tusk declined to run for Poland’s presidency in a July election, saying he wanted to remain in government to carry out reforms. His close ally Bronislaw Komorowski, also from PO, was elected president.
-- Tusk depicts his party as pro-business but he has eschewed radical market reforms, originally saying that President Lech Kaczynski would veto them. After the president’s death in a plane crash in April, he cited opposition from his government’s junior coalition partner, the Peasants’ Party, and the approach of parliamentary polls.
-- Tusk made populist gestures such as salary hikes for teachers and doctors during the economic slowdown but has reluctantly agreed to increase value-added tax and to cap spending next year to help rein in a large budget deficit.
-- An enthusiastic pro-European, Tusk pledged to take Poland into the euro zone in 2012 but was forced to scrap the plan after the global crisis drove up the budget deficit.
-- In foreign policy, Tusk has “reset” relations with Poland’s biggest neighbours Germany and Russia as well as with the European Union, which were badly strained under Jaroslaw Kaczynski’s government in 2005-07.
-- Keen to project a clean public image, Tusk acted swiftly to sack officials implicated in a scandal over gambling legislation last year. He has also demonstrated a sure political instinct in touring regions badly hit by severe flooding this year and promising swift aid to affected towns and villages.
-- A native of Poland’s Baltic port of Gdansk, Tusk studied history and became involved in the pro-democracy Solidarity movement that overthrew communism in 1989. After stints in both the upper and lower houses of Poland’s parliament, Tusk became leader of PO in April 2003. (Compiled by Gabriela Baczynska and Gareth Jones; Editing by Elizabeth Fullerton)