European Union leader Donald Tusk announced that he won't run to be the president of his native Poland, saying he carries too much "baggage" from his time as prime minister.
Outgoing European Council President and former Polish PM Donald Tusk said on Tuesday he will not seek Poland's presidency next year, saying the opposition needs to run a candidate without political "baggage".
The 62-year-old co-founder of Poland's liberal Civic Platform (PO) party, who was premier from 2007 to 2014, had been widely believed to be eyeing a political comeback at home following the end of his EU term this month.
"After deep consideration, I have decided to not run in the upcoming presidential election (in May 2020). I am announcing the decision now because time is of the essence," Tusk told Polish television reporters in Brussels.
"I would in no way like to hinder the opposition's process of selecting candidates. I think we can win this election, but what is required is a candidacy that is not burdened by baggage in the form of difficult, unpopular decisions -- and I have been burdened with such baggage since the time I was prime minister," he added.
"Even more so given that I do not intend to disown those tough decisions," said Tusk, whose government in 2012 decided to gradually raise the retirement age in an unpopular decision since reversed by the PiS.
"I would also like to underline that I will strongly support the opposition in this election and I will use every possible occasion to boost Poland's position in Europe and in the world," Tusk said.
Many observers had viewed Tusk as the opposition's best bet to beat incumbent President Andrzej Duda, who is close to the governing right-wing Law and Justice (PiS) party.
Poland's former leftist premier Leszek Miller tweeted about Tusk's decision: "Andrzej Duda has a second term at his fingertips."
Katarzyna Lubnauer, leader of the liberal opposition party Modern, for her part, hailed the decision.
"Given his international experience and contacts, he would make for a great Polish president. Unfortunately, on account of his political baggage, he would make for a worse candidate, because he would be polarising," she said on Twitter.
Tusk ran for president in 2005 but was defeated in the run-off with 46 percent of the vote. PiS leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski's late twin brother Lech won with 54 percent.
Now that Tusk is out of the running, his party may turn its attention to Malgorzata Kidawa-Blonska, who was its candidate for prime minister in the October general election won by the PiS and enjoys solid support in opinion polls.