He had long disappeared from the political scene. Lech Walesa, former president of Poland and Nobel Peace Prize winner in 1983, has waited "patiently" for the day when the ruling nationalist party and its leader Kaczynski will have to leave. That day has arrived: like him, half a million Poles took to the streets of Warsaw on Sunday to demonstrate against the ruling populist nationalist government, Law and Justice (PiS), its leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski and his allies, the organizers announced.
"City Hall estimates (participation) at 500,000 at the moment," said Jan Grabiec, spokesman for the organizers of the march. This demonstration seems to be the largest in this country since the fall of communism in 1989.
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Coming from all over Poland, the demonstrators - wearing the Polish white and red colours and those of the European Union - responded to the call of the leader of the main centrist opposition party, Donald Tusk.
They protest against "the high cost of living, fraud and lies, in favour of democracy, free elections and the EU". "Enough!", "We do not want an authoritarian Poland", "The PiS is expensive living", proclaimed placards directed against the majority in power in Poland for almost eight years, a few months before the autumn general elections.
Millions in the streets of Warsaw... even Lech Walesa, former president and Nobel Peace Prize winner, has taken up the pilgrim's staff! To put an end to authoritarianism and the far right. pic.twitter.com/78UDJ0Lt1k
— alexandra szacka (@szackaa) June 4, 2023
White and red hearts glued to their chests, PO officials led the way, along with Lech Walesa, legendary leader of the first free trade union in the communist world in the 1980s. "Mr. Kaczynski, we came to get you. That day has arrived," he said.
Warsaw, 4 June 2023. Lech Walesa was at the head of the procession during the parade. REUTERS/Kacper Pempel
In a brief inaugural speech, Tusk stressed that the opposition's mission is "of comparable importance" to that of the 1980s and the fight against communism at the time. The date of the event was not chosen at random: it corresponds to the 34th anniversary of the first partially free elections in Poland, which precipitated the fall of communism in Europe.
Lech Walesa's movement then succeeded in placing 160 of its candidates in the lower house, thus winning almost all the seats to which it was entitled, i.e. 35% of the mandates of this assembly, and 99% of all the positions of senators.