Warsaw mayor Rafał Trzaskowski, who was the defeated opposition candidate in the second round of July’s presidential elections, has launched his long-anticipated opposition movement, as well as a new trade union.

The movement’s name, Shared Poland (Wspólna Polska), reflects an aim to forge common ground between the three-way split that emerged at the election, says its founder: the 10.4 million who voted for conservative incumbent Andrzej Duda, the 10 million who favoured the centrist Trzaskowski, and the 9.6 million who chose not to vote at all.

Shared Poland will seek to “define the things that we all see the same way”, says Trzaskowski. The country is currently “divided like never before”, he claims, but he “believes in a shared Poland”.

Trzaskowski also announced the formation of a trade union called “New Solidarity” – a reference to the famous union that helped overthrow communism. It will represent self-employed people and those working on insecure so-called “junk contracts”.

“These are often the people who work the hardest in Poland, they are often the most creative Poles,” said Trzaskowski. But they lack representation, while “those in power want to reach into their pockets”.

Stworzymy dekalog Wspólnej Polski. Dekalog wartości, pragnień, marzeń, które są wspólne dla Polek i Polaków. Dołącz do Ruchu Wspólna Polska: https://ruchwspolnapolska.pl/

Opublikowany przez Rafała Trzaskowskiego Niedziela, 18 października 2020


“We are launching a movement for a Poland where the end never justifies the means, a Poland where law is the foundation of the state’s action, [where] law always comes first even when it is against the interests of the authorities,” said Trzaskowski at the launch event, held without an audience due to coronavirus restrictions.

“A Poland where everyone has the same rights and obligations, regardless of nationality, religion, political opinion, origin or sexual orientation,” he continued..

His words reflect common criticisms of the ruling national-conservative Law and Justice (PiS) party, which had been accused by both the domestic opposition and international institutions of violating the rule of law. It has also led a vocal anti-LGBT campaign over the last two years.

Shared Poland has not launched with a programme. Trzaskowski emphasises that it is not a political party, but rather “a space for dialogue and cooperation” between local government officials, NGOs, experts, politicians and the public, reports Radio Zet.

Its initial aim is to enable conversations about “values, desires and dreams that are common to [all] Polish women and men”, says its leader. It aims to train and subsidise hundreds of volunteers around the country to lead such discussions.

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Trzaskowski has tried to emphasise that his new movement will have a separate identity from the main opposition party, the centrist Civic Platform (PO), of which he himself is deputy leader.

However, on the weekend, PO’s leader, Borys Budka, made clear that he sees Shared Poland as part of a united opposition to PiS.

“The Trzaskowski movement is a step towards strengthening the opposition,” said Budka. “We are looking for a space of understanding for various environments and at the same time we are expanding the [Civic] Platform formula.”

Speaking at the launch event, Trzaskowski also said that it was time “to professionalise politics” by “providing the opposition with the knowledge and instruments necessary to win elections,” reports TVN24.

He called for the next elections – due in 2023 – to be fought with a single, united opposition coalition, or at the most two separate blocs. “If there are more, we will never win against PiS,” he argued.

Since the departure of its former leader, Donald Tusk, in 2014, PO has struggled to find an effective formula to respond to the popularity of PiS, which has won six elections – parliamentary, presidential, local and European – in a row.

PO has shuffled through three different leaders in that time, and has also tried to merge with other parties or form coalitions with them – so far without great success.

Tusk criticises Polish opposition and calls for more confrontational approach to “corrupt” ruling party

Trzaskowski’s own plans to capitalise on the momentum he built during this year’s presidential run – where he stepped in as a replacement for PO’s initial candidate – have also run into difficulties.

The inauguration of his movement was initially meant to take place on 5 September. However, it was delayed after a technical failure at a treatment plant in Warsaw – the second in the space of a year – sent billions of litres of sewage into the Vistula River and required Trzaskowski to lead an emergency response.

When the launch finally arrived on the weekend, media and public attention was focused on a rapid escalation in coronavirus cases in Poland. Saturday saw the country’s highest ever daily total of new infections, 9,622.

Commenting on Trzaskowski’s new movement, the head of the prime minister’s office, Michał Dworczyk, called it “paradoxical that a man who is responsible for an ecological disaster [at the sewage plant] and who for 12 months failed to repair the pipe” is “instructing everyone on how to manage a crisis”.

Shared Poland did, however, receive a cautious welcome from another political figure who has recently launched his own movement.

Szymon Hołownia, an independent candidate who finished third in the first round of the presidential election, inaugurated his Poland 2050 (Polska 2050) group in August. He promises to “break the diseased duopoly” of PiS and PO, who have long dominated Polish politics.

Like Trzaskowski’s movement, Hołownia’s is so far light on policies, but he has portrayed himself as a moderate and pragmatic conservative. A number of polls have since placed his movement third in a potential parliamentary vote, behind PiS and PO.

After the launch of Shared Poland, Hołownia said that he does not see Trzaskowski as a “political opponent” and that he hopes they can “cooperate wherever possible”, reports the Polish Press Agency (PAP).

Can Poland’s latest political outsider “break the duopoly”? We ask six experts

Main image credit: Rafał Trzaskowski/Facebook

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