Poland’s for­mer pres­i­dents lead march

Winnipeg Free Press - SundayXtra - - WORLD -

WAR­SAW, Poland — Poland’s two for­mer pres­i­dents led tens of thou­sands of marchers Satur­day in War­saw to protest the right-wing gov­ern­ment’s poli­cies and mark 27 years since the ouster of com­mu­nism.

The march was yet an­other in a series or­ga­nized by a new civic move­ment, the Com­mit­tee for the De­fence of Democ­racy, or KOD, against the con­ser­va­tive gov­ern­ment that took of­fice in Novem­ber. The gov­ern­ment’s poli­cies have strained Poland’s re­la­tions with the Euro­pean Union and the U.S. and an­gered many in Poland. But the rul­ing party in­sists it has a man­date from Poland’s vot­ers.

The na­tion­al­ist gov­ern­ment has fo­cused on help­ing those left out of Poland’s eco­nomic growth and in­creased its grip on state in­sti­tu­tions. The moves have par­a­lyzed the na­tion’s con­sti­tu­tional Tri­bunal, put state- owned media un­der gov­ern­ment con­trol and in­creased po­lice sur­veil­lance pow­ers.

The EU says Poland’s rule of law and democ­racy are in dan­ger.

The protests Satur­day brought for­mer pres­i­dents Alek­sander Kwas­niewski, a left-winger, and Bro­nis­law Ko­morowski, a cen­trist, to­gether to re­mind Poles about their at­tach­ment to free­dom and to democ­racy, which they won June 4, 1989, in an elec­tion that peace­fully ousted the com­mu­nists from power.

“We want a free Poland be­cause we fought for it, we dreamed about it and we built it,” Ko­morowski, a dis­si­dent un­der com­mu­nism, told the crowd.

War­saw au­thor­i­ties said 50,000 peo­ple took part. Smaller marches also took place in other Pol­ish cities and in Ber­lin and Brus­sels, the E.U. head­quar­ters.

At the rul­ing Law and Jus­tice party’s re­gional meet­ing in War­saw, party leader Jaroslaw Kaczyn­ski in­sisted Satur­day his poli­cies are im­prov­ing the lives of Poles and pro­tect­ing Poland’s in­de­pen­dence in the 28-na­tion EU.

Poles have the right to “a new, bet­ter shape (of Poland) that would bet­ter serve the vast ma­jor­ity of Poles, and we will not give that right up,” Kaczyn­ski said Satur­day, pound­ing the podium.

CZAREK SOKOLOWSKI / THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Pro­test­ers at a march against the Pol­ish gov­ern­ment in War­saw Satur­day.

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