In Warsaw, thousands of protesters gathered at an opposition rally organized by the Polish opposition, just two weeks ahead of crucial parliamentary elections. The aim was to encourage voters to turn out at the polls. The liberal Political Platform (PO) emphasized the significance of these elections for Poland’s future within the European Union and its democratic status. Despite polls suggesting that the nationalist Law and Justice (PiS) party might win, there is concern about their ability to secure a majority due to discontent over rising living costs and worries about democratic erosion.
The opposition, led by former prime minister and PO leader Donald Tusk, dubbed the event the “march of a million hearts.” Tusk expressed hope that this rally, one of the largest in decades, would galvanize voters to participate in the upcoming elections. Addressing the crowd in Warsaw’s central square, Tusk declared, “A significant change is imminent. This signifies Poland’s rejuvenation.” Tusk, a former European Council president, argued that this election was pivotal for minority and women’s rights, emphasizing the potential threat of Poland exiting the EU, a claim denied by PiS.
Since 2015, PiS has emphasized policies like keeping migrants out and financially supporting families and the elderly. However, protesters like Hanna Czasiewicz, a 59-year-old dentist from Otwok, expressed their desire to remain part of the EU and maintain access to free courts and a voice in decision-making.
PiS has faced criticism from the West, accused of undermining democratic norms. The party contends that its judicial reforms aim to create a fairer system, removing vestiges of communism, and that changes in public media are meant to reduce foreign influence. However, PiS has yet to access billions of euros from the EU Recovery Fund, as Brussels withholds funding due to concerns about Polish judicial reforms.