Hundreds of thousands of demonstrators have gathered in Poland to mark the 34th anniversary of the Eastern European country’s first post-war democratic elections. The march was said to test the liberal opposition’s ability to end nearly eight years of nationalist rule later this year.
A large anti-government march in the capital Warsaw on Sunday was attended by citizens from all over the country to express their anger at the right-wing regime.
Critics denounce constitutional violations and erosion of fundamental rights in a country long hailed as a model for peaceful and democratic transformation expressed dissatisfaction with the government.
The crowd, at least two kilometers long, marched with banners bearing the ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party’s banners: “Freedom, Poland Europe” and “European Union for, PiS against”.
Some held masks of ruling party leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski with the word “shame” on them. Organizers said one million people marched, but police and city officials did not provide estimates.
“I have been to many marches, but I have never seen a protest on this scale and with such energy. [the] June 4, 1989 [democratic election] It was,” said Jacek Gwozzu, 51, an IT specialist at Novi Sak in Warsaw.
Polls show elections scheduled for the summer and beyond will be close, with Russia’s war in neighboring Ukraine emerging as a leading voice against the Kremlin in Europe as a force for law and justice. empowering the government.
Despite widespread domestic and international criticism of the PiS, which has been accused of eroding the rule of law, turning state media into government mouthpieces, and supporting homophobia, the opposition has struggled to rally support. ing.
The government, led by Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki, denies subverting any democratic norms and aims to defend traditional Christian values against liberal pressure from the West and make the economy fairer. claims that it is.
“Silence is over”
Donald Tusk, leader of the Citizen Platform Party and former head of the European Union Council, welcomed his supporters, saying the Polish voices could not be silenced.
“Democracy perishes in silence, but today you raised your voice for democracy.
“There are half a million people in the streets of Warsaw. This is an absolute record,” he said to a crowd that filled the capital’s Castle Square.
Tusk has called for unity despite political differences within the opposition, promising victory in the October or November elections.
“Today, I pledge to win, to hold those in power accountable, to right injustice and ultimately to bring people back to reconciliation,” he said.
In June 1989, a partially free vote won a union-led government, setting off a chain of events that led to the fall of the Berlin Wall in November of the same year.
Hundreds of buses arrived in Warsaw on Sunday to pick up opposition supporters from all over the country. Some say it was motivated by an argument over a bill proposed by the PiS to rid the country of undue Russian influence.
Opposition parties see the bill as the government’s attempt to launch a witch hunt against its political opponents.
In an unexpected development, PiS ally President Andrzej Duda said on Friday he would propose changes to the law, drawing criticism not only from lawyers, but also from the US and European Commission.
The EU executive said the bill could effectively bar individuals from holding public office without proper judicial review.
“It’s beyond comprehension,” said Andrzej Mayewski, 48, from Srupka in western Poland, who was in Warsaw to participate in Sunday’s march.