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World

AFP
February 3, 2019

Openly gay Polish politician launches progressive ´Spring´ party

World

AFP
Sun, Feb 03, 2019

Poland´s first openly gay politician on Sunday launched "Spring", a progressive political party aimed at challenging the EU country´s governing right-wing party accused by critics and the EU of passing reforms that threaten the rule of law.

The move by Robert Biedron, the popular former mayor of the northern town of Slupsk, comes as Poland gears up for elections -- both domestic and European -- this year.

Biedron vowed to enforce a strong separation of church and state in the heavily Catholic country where the clergy still wields considerable influence.

He also promised equal pay for women, easier access to abortion, recognition of gay partnerships along with a string of generous social spending measures including a new universal old age pension.

He also vowed to "close all coal mines" by 2035 in a bid to stem chronic smog in the coal-dependent country that experts say causes an estimated 50,000 premature deaths per year in the country of 38 million people.

The progressive message of the charismatic 42-year-old, whose relaxed style is reminiscent of Canada´s liberal Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, appears to be resonating with voters.

An opinion poll published on Friday by the independent IBRiS pollsters showed that his fledgling party has already captured 6.4 percent popular support, albeit still a distant third behind the governing right-wing Law and Justice (PiS) party and the opposition liberal Civic Platform (PO).

- ´Positive energy´ -

Biedron also vowed on Sunday to focus on uniting the deeply polarised country still reeling from the murder of the popular liberal mayor of the northern city of Gdansk last month.

The public stabbing of Pawel Adamowicz has raised questions about hate speech in politics and the role that politicians have played in fomenting deep social divisions.

"We need positive energy more than ever now... we must fulfil the legacy of Pawel Adamowicz," Biedron said of the slain mayor who was a vocal supporter of women´s and gay rights among other progressive values.

"Our most important value is community . We no longer want Poles to be at war with each other. We want mutual respect and dialogue," he added.

"Two political parties are trying to divide us into two enemy camps... to choose between the PiS and the PO, but we don´t want a war, we want to build the Poland of our dreams together," said Biedron, as he received a rockstar welcome from supporters waving Polish and EU flags.

The PiS government has put Poland on a collision course with the EU by introducing a string of controversial judicial reforms that Brussels has warned pose a threat to judicial independence, the rule of law and ultimately to democracy.