Enormous crowds have gathered in central Warsaw at a rally organised by opposition chief Donald Tusk, two weeks earlier than an important election that may have main implications for the long run political course of Poland and its function in Europe.
As a carefully fought and cruel marketing campaign enters its ultimate straight, Tusk had known as on supporters to rally in Warsaw to placed on a present of energy and galvanise the opposition. Victory, he claimed, was in sight.
“A breakthrough second is coming within the historical past of our homeland,” stated Tusk on Sunday, addressing the crowds at the start of the rally, his phrases echoing by way of surrounding streets from banks of audio system arrange in a number of areas. “Let nobody among the many ruling staff have any illusions. Change for the higher is inevitable,” he added.
Tusk claimed greater than 1,000,000 folks had attended the march, dubbed the “March of 1,000,000 hearts”, whereas Warsaw police stated the quantity was about 100,000.
Giant elements of the centre of Warsaw got here to a standstill as folks streamed by way of the streets carrying Polish and European Union flags, in addition to banners with numerous jokey or indignant slogans attacking the ruling Regulation and Justice (PiS) social gathering.
“Nobody believed that such crowds and such feelings may occur once more in our historical past. This can be a signal of the good Polish revival,” stated Tusk.
Tusk was the Polish prime minister between 2007 and 2014 earlier than leaving Poland to turn into president of the European Council. He has returned to Polish politics to steer the opposition marketing campaign in what he has claimed is the final likelihood to save lots of Polish democracy.
PiS got here to energy in 2015 and have pursued a rightwing populist agenda mixed with elevated social spending, profitable a lot help in rural areas. On the identical time, they’ve curtailed rights for ladies and minorities and been accused of democratic backsliding.
Polls recommend PiS will do barely higher than Tusk’s Civic Coalition, and the ultimate result’s prone to come all the way down to the efficiency of a number of smaller events and the arithmetic round coalition constructing.
PiS leaders held their very own occasion within the metropolis of Katowice on Sunday, timed to coincide with the Tusk march. They continued a marketing campaign technique of portraying the opposition as international stooges, utilizing Tusk’s years in Brussels to assert he now solutions to German pursuits.
“This vote just isn’t solely about what Poland will appear to be. It’s about whether or not Poland will exist in any respect,” claimed the prime minister, Mateusz Morawiecki, brandishing a file he stated contained damaging details about Tusk, who had a “German imaginative and prescient” for Poland’s future.
A big a part of Tusk’s marketing campaign has been about reclaiming the language of patriotism for the opposition, resulting in the red-and-white hearts which have turn into a logo of the marketing campaign. On Sunday, hundreds in attendance on the rally have been waving red-and-white Polish flags.
“I see a sea of purple and white banners … All of us share the view that our red-and-white homeland may be dwelling to free folks once more,” stated Tusk.
The years of PiS rule have seen a takeover of public media, rising friction with Brussels and the introduction of a few of Europe’s harshest anti-abortion legal guidelines.
Rafał Trzaskowski, the Civic Coalition mayor of Warsaw, additionally addressed the rally, saying he hoped that the elections would result in a extra “open and tolerant” Poland.
“We’re marching in order that kids don’t have to observe their moms being crushed as a result of they’re preventing for his or her rights … in order that nobody assaults youngsters with rainbow tote luggage who’re preventing for his or her rights,” stated Trzaskowski.
Whereas the dimensions of the rally will likely energise opposition forces as they enter the ultimate stage of campaigning, most observers say the ultimate end result of the election remains to be not possible to foretell with confidence.
“It’s superb to see so many completely satisfied, smiling folks in a single place and to get a way of what a unique place Poland could possibly be,” stated 41-year-old Joanna from Wrocław, who travelled to Warsaw along with her two teenage daughters to attend the rally. “However I’m nonetheless actually nervous that PiS can win once more, after which I might be nervous for me, however particularly nervous for these two and their future on this nation,” she stated.
Further reporting by Katarzyna Piasecka