The recent political news coming out of Poland hasn't been good for supporters of liberal democracy in the country. From the actions of the Law and Justice party that threaten the freedom of the judiciary to the murder of liberal Gdansk mayor Pawel Adamowicz, Poland's progressives haven't had much to be optimistic about lately — until now. The progressive politician Robert Biedron, one of Poland's first openly gay politicians, just formed a new party, and now he's gunning for success in the European Parliament (EP) elections coming up in the spring.
The 42-year-old Biedron, a former LGBTQ rights activist and atheist left-wing politician in a country that's 96 percent Catholic, just formed a new party, Wiosna (Spring). As The Washington Post wrote, Biedron was tallying about 10 percent support in the polls before he had even formed the party — and the Sunday announcement on Wiosna's official formation means that the party now has a chance to get some significant representation in the upcoming elections to the European Parliament.
“We are the spring, we bring in fresh air to Polish politics,” Biedron said at a rally in the Polish capital of Warsaw, according to Pink News. Wiosna gives voters the chance to vote for a truly progressive, pro-European party, as Pink News wrote.
Biedron's political career began in 2011, when he became the first openly gay member of the Polish Parliament, according to The Telegraph. He then became the mayor of the northern city of Slupsk, a position that he only left in 2018 to form the beginnings of the movement that would become Wiosna.
“Voters want a real change, especially those who share a progressive, liberal and open worldview but have virtually no representation,” Biedron told The Telegraph. “The Polish parliament is currently occupied by right wing and conservative parties but what will come as a surprise to many is that Polish society is way more liberal and progressive than our politics."
The conservative Law and Justice party won big in the 2015 elections, capturing a majority in the lower house of Poland's parliament, as Foreign Affairs reported at the time. Poland's president, Andrzej Duda, is also a member of the same party. Law and Justice then used its mandate to attempt to radically change Poland's legal system, essentially working to consolidate its own power and undermine the rule of law, as Freedom House described.
While Law and Justice didn't succeed in its aims as much as some critics feared, Poland's progressives haven't had many options of parties to support in a political sphere dominated by conservative and center-right parties, as The Financial Times explained. Wiosna's progressive and socially liberal agenda — which would weaken the influence of the Catholic Church and strengthen Poland's ties to the European Union — thus offers a whole new realm of opportunity for Poland's liberals, who are disproportionately young, urban, and well-educated.
As Politico wrote, though, critics fear that Wiosna could actually help Law and Justice in the end, because Biedron has refused to join forces with the main opposition party, the center-right Civic Platform. Wiosna's presence in the upcoming EP elections and the Polish parliamentary elections coming later in 2019 could, according to critics, split the opposition and strengthen Law and Justice's grip on power.
However, Wiosna has a real chance of motivating liberal voters in the EP elections, which traditionally draw a very low turnout across the continent and could thus provide the party with a good opportunity for success if Biedron keeps energizing his potential constituency. For now, only time will tell.