They descended in numbers to make their voices heard. Half a million Poles demonstrated this Sunday in the streets of Warsaw against the populist nationalist government in power, a few months before the autumn legislative elections, the organizers announced. “The Town Hall considers [la participation] at 500,000 right now,” Jan Grabiec, spokesman for the organizers of the march, which appears to be the biggest in the country since the fall of communism in 1989, told AFP.
Come from all over Polandthe demonstrators – sporting the white and red Polish colors and those of the European Union – responded to the call of the leader of the main centrist opposition party (Civic Platform, PO), the former head of the European Council Donald Tusk, to protest against “the high cost of living, cheating and lying, in favor of democracy, free elections and the EU”. The leaders of the majority of opposition parties have encouraged their supporters to join the big march against the populist nationalist ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party, its leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski and its allies.
“Democracy dies in silence”
” That’s enough ! “, “We do not want an authoritarian Poland”, “The PiS is the dear life”, proclaimed placards directed against the majority in power in Poland for almost eight years. “Our government is authoritarian. They want to make Poland a country that looks like Russia,” Karolina Sieminska, a 22-year-old French student, told AFP. With white and red hearts plastered to their chests, PO officials led the march along the Royal Way in the Polish capital, accompanied by the legendary leader of the communist world’s first free trade union in the 1980s Lech WalesaNobel Peace Prize in 1983.
Long absent from the political scene, Lech Walesa said he waited “patiently” for the day when the nationalist party and its leader Kaczynski will have to go. “Mr. Kaczynski, we came to get you. This day has arrived, ”he said.
In his speech, Donald Tusk, the nemesis of the power in place, underlined that the current mission of the opposition is “of comparable importance” to that of the 1980s and the fight against communism at the time. “Democracy dies in silence. From today, there will be no more silence”, he launched in front of a human tide tight at the threshold of the Old city, under a magnificent sun. “So that democracy does not die, despite the daily attacks by Kaczynski’s PiS against its very bases,” he said.
A historic anniversary date
The majority of the polls predict an electoral victory for the PiS, credited with around 30-35% of the voting intentions, but without obtaining a majority. If the various opposition parties maintain their current level of support and prove able to get along, they have every chance of taking power. According to Piotr Mroz, 62, a construction worker, who traveled nearly 600 km to come to Warsaw from his city of Szczecin (north-west), “if that does not change now we will have Hungary or Turkey here”, countries often accused of violations of democratic rules.
In a sarcastic comment, the head of the incumbent government, Mateusz Morawiecki, tried to deride the importance of the gathering, which he compared to “the circus”. “It makes me laugh a little when the old foxes who have been in politics for years, organize an anti-government march and present it as a spontaneous civic protest,” he said as quoted by the PAP agency.
The date of the protest, which the opposition sees as a watershed moment in its march to an eventual election victory, is the 34th anniversary of Poland’s first partially free elections, which precipitated the fall of communism in Europe. Lech Walesa’s movement had then succeeded in placing 160 of its candidates in the Lower House, thus winning almost all the seats it could claim, i.e. 35% of the mandates of this assembly, and 99% of all the positions of senators.
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