Opposition march for “tolerant, open, European Poland” in Warsaw ahead of elections

A large opposition march has passed through the Polish capital of Warsaw, two weeks before the country votes in parliamentary elections.

“When I see this sea of ​​hearts, when I see these hundreds of thousands of smiling faces, I feel that this breakthrough moment is coming in the history of our homeland,” opposition leader Donald Tusk told the crowd at the outset of the “March of a Million Hearts”, as the event had been named.

“We are moving towards a Poland that is open, tolerant, European and smiling,” added Warsaw’s opposition mayor, Rafał Trzaskowski, quoted by TVN24. Two hours after the march began, city hall announced that it is “the largest demonstration in the history of Warsaw”, with “approximately one million participants”.

A spokeswoman for Warsaw’s police force – which is under the authority of the interior ministry – said that as a policy they do not release estimates of attendance at such events. However, state press agency PAP claimed to have seen a police estimate that there were 100,000 people along the route of the march.

Milion biało-czerwonych serc na ulicach Warszawy!

Wygramy te wybory! ❤️🇵🇱 #MarszMilionaSerc pic.twitter.com/dAx50DNhC8

— PlatformaObywatelska (@Platforma_org) October 1, 2023

Tusk’s centrist Civic Coalition (KO) is currently running second in the polls, with support of around 29%, behind the ruling national-conservative Law and Justice (PiS) party on 36%.

If KO hopes to win power, it will need to ally with other opposition groups. One of those, The Left (Lewica), also participated in today’s march, with two of its leaders, Robert Biedroń and Włodzimierz Czarzasty, joining Tusk on stage.

“This is the future of Poland!” Biedroń told the crowd. “Today there is hope. We stand united on this stage. We are ready to win. We are ready to create a joint, democratic government, the entire opposition.”

NA ŻYWO | Robert Biedroń i Włodzimierz Czarzasty na Marszu Miliona Serc! https://t.co/PFlVJXdiKA

— Lewica (@__Lewica) October 1, 2023

However, the other main opposition group that would form part of any such government – the centre-right Third Way (Trzecia Droga) – chose to focus its efforts elsewhere today, arguing that they needed to win votes in smaller towns.

Its two leaders, Szymon Hołownia and Władysław Kosiniak-Kamysz, instead held a campaign event in Częstochowa, southern Poland.

“We’re keeping our fingers crossed for today’s march in Warsaw. Mobilisation is needed on all fronts,” said Hołownia. “The opposition can complement each other,” added Kosiniak-Kamysz.

„Mocno trzymamy kciuki za dzisiejszy marsz w Warszawie. Mobilizacja jest potrzebna na wszystkich frontach, wszystkie ręce na pokład”- S.Hołownia w Częstochowie #marszmilionaserc
„Trzeciej Drogi brakowało w poprzednich wyborach. Opozycja potrafi się uzupełniać”- W.Kosiniak-Kamysz pic.twitter.com/UT5TepQEz6

— Agata Szczęśniak (@szczesniak__a) October 1, 2023

Tusk first announced plans for today’s march in mid-July. The previous month, he had drawn hundreds of thousands to Warsaw for another anti-government rally.

By midday today, around 448 coaches had brought opposition supporters to Warsaw for the event, announced the police. That was, however, less than half the 1,100 that arrived for the June march, noted PAP.

Many other participants arrived today by public transport, with videos showing trams and metro trains filled with people this morning.

Zdążycie! Czekamy! #MarszMilionaSerc 🇵🇱✌️ pic.twitter.com/RwiHG9yLlK

— PlatformaObywatelska (@Platforma_org) October 1, 2023

Meanwhile, PiS is today holding a large convention of its own in Katowice at the city’s 11,000-seater Spodek arena.

“It is heartwarming to see people united out of love for Poland here in one place,” Elżbieta Witek, the PiS speaker of parliament, told the audience. She then contrasted that to the “systematic evil we see and hear at opposition demonstrations”.

“Only together can we stop this evil,” continued Witek. “Over the last eight years [of PiS rule], we have shown Poles that you can be honest and faithful to your values.”

Jest moc!🔥⚡️ Spodek wypełnia się morzem 🇵🇱 patriotów! 15 października zwyciężymy #BezpiecznaPolska pic.twitter.com/AYcDmE4Xqz

— Prawo i Sprawiedliwość (@pisorgpl) October 1, 2023

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Main image credit: Slawomir Kaminski / Agencja Wyborcza.pl

Daniel Tilles is editor-in-chief of Notes from Poland. He has written on Polish affairs for a wide range of publications, including Foreign PolicyPOLITICO EuropeEUobserver and Dziennik Gazeta Prawna.

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