Donald Tusk, leader of Poland's opposition Civic Platform (PO) liberals declared Monday that he is "ready" to become prime minister after next Sunday's snap parliamentary elections.
"Yes, I'm ready, but the answer is not up to me, but voters," Tusk said, asked in a debate about whether he would become prime minister should his party win on Sunday.
Leader of the business-friendly PO, Tusk, 50, made the statement in response to a question by Poland's popular two-term ex-president Aleksander Kwasniewski, 52, currently the poster-boy for the third spot left-wing LiD coalition.
Banter during the debate between the two rivals suggested their parties could be inclined to join forces in a coalition after the election.
In terms of policy goals, both parties agree that 2004 EU entrant Poland should adopt the bloc's common currency by 2012 or 2013.
The thorny issue of Poland's troop presence in Iraq was also raised, with both leaders calling for the pull-out of 900 Polish soldiers as soon as possible.
A majority of Poles - 80 per cent - oppose their country's presence in Iraq, according to opinion polls. Both slammed the decision of Poland's conservative-nationalist Law and Justice (PiS) government to remain in Iraq.
Tusk emerged the unquestioned victor of a Friday debate with Poland's PiS Prime Minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski. Commentators in Warsaw agreed that another strong showing Monday could have clinched a PO victory this Sunday.
Meanwhile, a survey by the independent SMK/KRC pollsters for Poland's commercial broadcaster TVN in the wake of the Friday night debate showed the Tusk's PO pulling ahead of Kaczynski's PiS.
Thirty-nine per cent of respondents supported the PO, 29 per cent backed the PiS, while 10 per cent opted for Kwasniewski's LiD and 7 per cent for the conservative Polish Peasants Party (PSL).
A novel mixture of ex-communists and ex-Solidarity dissidents, the third-spot LiD includes politicians very close to the PO.
As neither the PO nor the PiS are expected to win an outright majority, the third-spot hybrid party is poised to become a coalition maker or breaker in the post-election scramble for power.
One LiD politician, respected historian, Solidarity-era dissident and ex-foreign minister Bronislaw Geremek made it crystal clear this weekend his party is prepared to enter a coalition with the PO.
"For the good of Poland we are prepared to govern in a coalition which, as we hope given success, the PO will be able to propose," Geremek was quoted as saying by the Polish PAP news agency.
But under no circumstances would the LiD join forces with the PiS, he added.
"A group which held government and for two years governed Poland badly, is leaving government. We feel that at the moment it has no chance to create any kind of a coalition which would allow it to continue in government," Geremek said.
Poles will vote this coming Sunday in a snap election called after Prime Minister Kaczynski's PiS party failed to create a stable majority coalition during the two years of its conflict-ridden government.
Former coalition partners from two small populist parties have accused Kaczynski of abusing the secret service and Justice Ministry in attempts to eliminate them from politics. dpa sib gma cc