February 18, 2019
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European Union

Openly-gay Polish politician launches progressive "Spring" party

Warsaw, Feb 10 (efe-epa).- A new progressive party that is barely a week old and headed by Poland’s first openly gay politician aims to challenge the incumbent right-wing nationalist government at forthcoming European Union parliamentary elections.

“Spring,” headed by Robert Biedron, a liberal LGBT activist and former Mayor of the northern town of Slupsk, announced on Feb. 3 the formation of his new political group which will challenge the ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party — heavily criticized by the EU for reforms that have been deemed to threaten the rule of law — at forthcoming EU parliamentary elections slated for May with a view to run for the general elections to be held later on in the year.

According to most recent polls by British market research company Millward Brown, if Poland were to hold elections on Sunday Biedron’s party would be the third most voted group, securing 14 percent of the votes.

The ruling PiS would still be in the lead with 29 percent of the votes, followed by the alliance of center-right liberals Civic Platform with 20 percent, the same poll said.

It seems the progressive rhetoric of the 42-year-old politician has touched a nerve in Poland, where many are tired of what Biedron describes as “medieval politicians” who have a vision “marked by religion and antiquated ideas.”

One of the LGBT campaigner’s key policies would be to enforce a clear separation between the state and church as well as to close all coal mines, to devise policies to boost women’s rights including addressing equal pay, to review abortion laws and to recognize gay partnerships.

Above all, however, Biedron wants to do away with the rhetoric of hate that has emerged within polish politics.

“His anticlerical program, which goes as far as proposing a renegotiation of the Concordat, and his strong defense of the environment is directed, above all, at an urban middle-class electorate,” Anna Sroka, university political sciences professor, told EFE on Sunday.

“Poland is a young democracy, and a new party emerges for each election, usually taking the center stage with its innovative policy proposals,” Sroka continued.

But Biedron seems to be breaking the mold in ways Poland, a country that is steeped in traditional and Catholic values, has never seen before.

In 2011 he became a member of parliament with the defunct Palikot Movement, and was in the same year elected the mayor of Slupsk becoming the first openly gay lawmaker in Poland, “even though many did not believe it possible,” Biedron told EFE in an interview last October.

During that interview, which took place a few days after Biedron abandoned his mayoral position in order to launch his national political career, he told EFE that “this was his moment to try and change Poland.”

Biedron went on to say that the political enemy to beat was the PiS, who won the 2015 elections with an absolute majority.

“(PiS) is a threat to Polish democracy because it wants to impose its' ideology on everyone without consulting, and it has absorbed the control of institutions in order to use them as it pleases, like toys,” Biedron added.

“It is obvious that with the PiS in power our political system and our communities are being deteriorated and it will continue to do this if it wins again, but it won’t, and I will do everything I can to stop them,” he continued.

“In our favor we have the fact that Poles are much more progressive than people think, and it is generally our politicians that give us a bad reputation, those who maintain close ties with hierarchies like the Catholic church bowing to their policies and as such moving further and further away from what most of society thinks,” the politician concluded.

For the time being it would be difficult to deduce how Biedron’s new outfit would perform in elections and its impact on the PiS, who could benefit from an even further fragmented opposition with the emergence of the “Spring” party, but if the polls are anything to go by his party could continue to absorb more supporters ahead of November’s general elections, and the EU ballot in May.

By Nacho Temiño

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