Donald Tusk led hundreds of thousands of people through the streets of Warsaw on Sunday in a bid to galvanise support for Poland’s opposition ahead of a general election in a fortnight’s time.
Opinion polls suggest the nationalist Law and Justice (PiS) government could win the Oct 15 vote but may struggle to form a majority amid discontent over rising living costs and concern at the erosion of democratic checks and balances.
Mr Tusk, a former European Council president who now leads Poland’s largest opposition grouping, said that a million people attended the rally.
His claim appeared to be borne out by official figures from Warsaw Council, which put attendance at around a million, potentially making it the biggest political demonstration in Poland since the fall of communism in 1989.
“This moment is a signal for Poland’s rebirth,” Mr Tusk told the crowd at the start of the rally.
“This force cannot be stopped as the giant has awoken; change is inevitable and for the better.”
Mr Tusk heads the liberal Civic Platform (PO), which says the upcoming vote may decide Poland’s future in the European Union and its democratic standing.
The four-party coalition has pledged to pursue more tolerant policies than those adopted by PiS, which has been in power since 2015.
“When I see this sea of hearts, I can sense that a breakthrough moment is coming in the history our our homeland,” said Mr Tusk.
Despite the size of the crowd, whether Civic Coalition has enough support nationwide to dethrone Law and Justice remains unclear.
Although opinion polls put PiS narrowly ahead of the opposition, very few parties have expressed a willingness to work with the party in government post the elections, potentially paving the way for Civic Coalition to try and cobble together a governing coalition.
PiS has campaigned on a pledge to keep migrants out of Poland, saying that was key for national security, and to continue funnelling money towards families and the elderly.
The prospect of a hung parliament has spurred speculation in the country that the far-Right Confederation party, which polls suggest is backed by about 10 per cent of voters, could assume the role of king maker.
But its leaders have so far dismissed the prospect of entering any coalition, preferring instead to pour scorn on Poland’s main political parties.
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