Polish Opposition Supporters, Seeking Change, Mark 1989 Solidarity Win
Thousands gathered in Warsaw on Sunday, the 34th anniversary of Poland’s first postwar democratic election, for a protest march the liberal opposition has billed as a test of its ability to end nearly eight years of nationalist rule later this year.
Opinion polls show an election due after the summer will be closely fought, with Russia’s war in neighboring Ukraine giving a boost to the Law and Justice (PiS) government which has emerged as a leading voice against the Kremlin in Europe.
The opposition has struggled to galvanize support despite widespread criticism at home and abroad of the PiS, which has been accused of eroding the rule of law, turning state media into a government mouthpiece and endorsing homophobia.
The government of Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki denies subverting any democratic norms and says its aim is to protect traditional Christian values against liberal pressures from the West and to make the economy more fair.
Donald Tusk, head of the Civic Platform grouping and former European Union council chief, had called on supporters to join Sunday’s march.
“I want the (government) to start being afraid on June 4 and for people to see they have power and they can change things,” he told Newsweek in an interview published on Monday. “I want to give people faith in their strength.”
In 1989, the partially free vote on June 4 handed victory to a government led by the Solidarity trade union and triggered a series of events culminating in the fall of the Berlin Wall that November.
On Sunday, hundreds of buses were arriving in Warsaw to bring supporters from across the country. Some said they were motivated by a row over legislation proposed by PiS to weed out undue Russian influence from the country.
The opposition sees the legislation as a government attempt to launch a witchhunt against political opponents.
In an unexpected turnaround, President Andrzej Duda, a PiS ally, said on Friday he would propose amendments to the law, which has already drawn criticism from lawyers and opposition politicians, as well as the U.S. State Department and European Commission.
The EU’s executive said it could effectively ban individuals from holding public office without proper judicial review.
“It’s beyond comprehension,” said Andrzej Majewski, 48, from Slupca in western Poland.