‘Half Million’ People Stage Anti-government Protests in Poland
Story Code : 1062089
Protesters on Sunday slammed the ruling Law and Justice Party [PiS] that rose to power in 2015 for eroding democratic norms and attacking the independent judiciary.
“We’re half a million here, it’s a record,” said Donald Tusk, the former prime minister who leads the Civic Platform opposition grouping, noting that it was the biggest political gathering since Poland regained independence after the communist period.
While there was no official number on the size of the rally, Warsaw’s city hall gave a similar estimate.
“The whole of Poland, the whole of Europe, and the whole world see how strong we are and how we are ready to fight for democracy and freedom again, like we did 30, 40 years ago,” Tusk told the crowds at the beginning of the rally that saw numerous opposition groupings participating.
The march marked the 34th anniversary of the victory of a group linked to the Solidarity trade union movement in an election in 1989 that constituted a major step in the toppling of communist rule in the country.
Similar marches took place in other cities across Poland, but many people from around the country opted to travel to Warsaw to take part in the main march.
The protests came amid anger over a law passed last week that would allow a government commission to ban people from public office if it believes they were agents of alleged Russian influence. Critics say it is an attempt to launch a witch-hunt against political opponents, particularly the opposition leader, Tusk.
The law was signed by President Andrzej Duda last week, but he almost immediately proposed urgent amendments to the legislation after it drew wide criticism that it was unconstitutional.
The protests come as the country is gearing up for an election due in autumn.
Opinion polls show the election will be closely fought, with neither PiS nor Tusk’s Civic Platform being likely to gain enough votes to form a government alone.