The opposition in Poland staged a massive demonstration in Warsaw and other cities on Sunday, with over a million participants according to their claims. However, the overall atmosphere is somber instead of celebratory, with the election just two weeks away.
That’s because the ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party has been holding on to a significant lead in the polls. POLITICO’s Poll of Polls has PiS at 38 percent while Civic Coalition, the main opposition grouping, is at 30 percent.
The Million Hearts march called by Donald Tusk, a former prime minister who heads the Civic Coalition, was supposed to lift the spirits of opposition supporters and show them that PiS — in power since 2015 — can be beaten.
“I am witnessing the realization of the impossible, as I gaze upon this ocean of hearts and the hundreds of thousands of smiling faces. It is evident to me that our homeland is on the brink of a momentous turning point,” Tusk declared to the gathering in Warsaw.
However, the atmosphere among the large crowds of individuals moving through the center of Warsaw, Poland was more subdued, despite many people waving Polish and EU flags in red and white or deep blue.
“I am extremely fed up with the current government and their destructive actions towards my country,” stated Kalina de Nisau, donning a wrap fashioned from intertwined EU and Polish flags. “However, I am unsure if this protest will have any impact on the final result. It’s quite challenging.”
During the event in Warsaw, Tusk and other leaders of the party encouraged the large crowd, while PiS leaders were in Katowice, the coal mining hub of Poland, issuing ominous warnings about the potential threats if Tusk and his supporters are victorious on October 15th.
Merkel and migrants
“If we manage to defeat [Civic Coalition], we will drive away Tusk. Where to? Berlin,” declared Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki, tapping into a common PiS narrative that Tusk is colluding with Germany to harm Poland. He went on to refer to Tusk as the “political spouse” of former German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
He additionally alleged that Tusk was attempting to orchestrate a surge of unauthorized immigrants into the EU, presenting a bundle of paperwork that he claimed detailed the plan “clearly and explicitly.” PiS is attempting to redirect the backlash from a developing scandal involving bribes-for-visas, where Polish consulates are being accused of issuing work visas in exchange for money and issuing a large number of visas to non-EU individuals.
Last week, Germany implemented stricter border controls at its borders with the Czech Republic and Poland in order to reduce the number of asylum seekers entering the country.
The ruling party, PiS, minimized the significance of the opposition’s march, despite it potentially being the largest in Polish history.
“Survey of surveys for the national parliamentary elections in Poland.”
For additional polling information from various countries in Europe, please check out the POLITICO Poll of Polls.
The head of PiS and the unofficial leader of Poland, Jarosław Kaczyński, criticized the “influential media” who are in favor of Tusk for magnifying the magnitude of the protest.
Kaczyński quoted an unofficial police estimate stating that there were 60,000 people in Warsaw today, despite Tusk’s claim of a million. The route of the rally covered 4 kilometers and the streets and sidewalks were filled with people.
Tusk used the large crowd as evidence of a desire to distance themselves from PiS. The party has been involved in ongoing disputes with Brussels over allegations of undermining the principles of rule of law and democracy, due to significant changes made to the judicial system.
Tusk stated that the significance of this political demonstration goes beyond its title as the largest in European history. He expressed the belief that Europe is hopeful for Poland to once again become a fully European country, embracing democracy and freedom.
A loss for PiS in two weeks would require a sudden and significant shift in luck for the opposing party. Otherwise, PiS is expected to be the dominant party and would need to seek out coalition partners in order to secure a third consecutive term in office.
Katarzyna Osuch expressed her lack of optimism as she walked alongside a large crowd in Warsaw. She believes that PiS may continue to hold power, which has left her feeling greatly disappointed.