How journalist and TV presenter became Polish political celebrity with chances to become president

Thursday, 18 January 2024

A new star has emerged on Poland's political scene and his name is Szymon Hołownia.

He has managed to balance between the hostile camps of conservative forces led by Jarosław Kaczyński and centrist-liberal forces led by Donald Tusk. Hołownia is the most popular Marshal (Speaker) of the Sejm in history. This, among other things, makes him one of the favourites in the upcoming presidential elections scheduled for next year.

Read more in the article by the publicist and journalist of Belsat, Michał Kacewicz – Showman in Speaker's Chair: How Tusk's Junior Partner Changing Polish Politics.

A former journalist and host of the Polish version of Got Talent entered politics in 2019, announcing his participation in the presidential race.

Szymon Hołownia caused a sensation in the 2020 elections. He did not advance to the second round, securing the third place. He gained nearly 14% of the votes. But this debut was significant.

He gave hope for the first time for a disruption of the politics between two opposing poles: Jarosław Kaczyński and Donald Tusk.

Hołownia decided to use his political capital gained during the campaign following the 2020 presidential elections. He became the leader of the Poland 2050 Szymon Hołownia political party.

The name hinted at a long-term strategic goal of modernising the country.

Hołownia avoids ideological declarations. Although his party is called centrist, it is slightly more conservative in ideological matters than Donald Tusk's Civic Platform and, of course, than the New Left.

At the same time, it was founded in sharp opposition to Jarosław Kaczyński's party Law and Justice and the Polish right. This strategy proved to be a recipe for success in the last parliamentary elections.

Before the last parliamentary elections last year, Poland 2050 Szymon Hołownia had created a coalition with the Polish Peasant Party led by Władysław Kosiniak-Kamysz.

This is an old party with a traditional rural electorate. It has a budget and developed structures throughout the country.

They formed a coalition called the Third Way. Throughout the entire election campaign, they criticised the Law and Justice government but distanced themselves from the opposition focused around Donald Tusk.

The opposition won the elections, but it won them together and jointly. The majority was secured by three blocs: Civic Coalition, Third Way, and the New Left. Third Way gained almost 15% of the votes and received 65 seats in the new Sejm.

When talks began about forming a new coalition, Hołownia insisted firmly that he wants to be the Marshal of the Sejm.

Ultimately, the coalition agreed that Hołownia would be the so-called "rotational" Marshal, meaning he would hold the position for two years. Then, he would be replaced by a representative from the New Left.

This decision is successful for Hołownia. The presidential elections will take place in Poland in less than two years. And his presidential ambitions are no secret.

Leading the Sejm, he is building up his positions in politics. He shows that he is no longer just a showman or the leader of the second side in the coalition.

After years of tough, even brutal management of the Sejm by speakers from Law and Justice (Marek Kuchciński and Elżbieta Witek), Hołownia became a revelation.

The new Sejm head brought calm and reasoned debate. He speaks patiently with overly emotional MPs, like with disobedient children. This is something new.

The new Marshal show differences in his approaches, but it does not mean he is not determined.

In particular, Hołownia refused to Jarosław Kaczyński onto the podium, which had not happened before, as the leader of the former ruling party took the floor and went to the podium, without asking for permission from the speakers.

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