Poland’s new “Spring” party hopes to end two-party stalemate

Poland’s new “Spring” party hopes to end two-party stalemate
By Wojciech Kosc in Warsaw February 4, 2019

Robert Biedron, the openly gay Polish politician that rose to nationwide prominence by sensationally becoming mayor of the seaside town of Slupsk a few years ago, has decided to challenge the political status quo in Poland by forming a new liberal-left party Wiosna (Spring).

Biedron held the inaugural convention of the new party in Warsaw on February 3 to the immense interest of all media. The main message Biedron delivered to a crowd of an estimated 6,000 in Warsaw’s Torwar sports hall and – possibly – hundreds of thousands in front of TV screens and on social media was his intention to break Poland’s persisting two-party deadlock in which the ruling Law and Justice (PiS) and opposition Civic Platform (PO) have remained since 2005.

“The last few years have been cold and gloomy. Constant conflict instead of talking to each other. Party interests over common good. Hostility in place of empathy. Let it finally change! We need spring to renew this gloomy winter landscape,” Biedron addressed the crowd.

The 42-year-old politician wants to bring about change by rolling out a wide-reaching policy centred on welfare, equality regardless of sex or orientation, and ending the influence of the Catholic church on public life. 

In his speech, Biedron talked much less – in fact nearly not at all – about the economy, foreign affairs, or the EU, although he made clear Poland’s future does lie with the currently crisis-riven bloc. 

The programme booklet made public afterwards gave only general guidelines on how the new party is going to finance its ideas. 

The money will come mainly from budgetary savings achieved by better organisation and digitisation of procedures or one-off gains from liquidation of institutions Biedron considers unnecessary. He also foresees increased budget revenues from VAT, an effect of job creation and boosting household incomes.

In one of the most striking proposals, Spring vowed to close down all coal mines in Poland by 2035. That would serve to clean up Poland’s air, among the most polluted in Europe, Biedron said. He did not mention how that will affect Poland’s energy sector, which still derives nearly 80% of power from burning coal.

Biedron’s platform will put him on collision course with both main parties, which he wants to make room for fresh activism like his. There were early negative reactions from PiS and PO alike on social media following the convention.

Spring’s promises sound especially attractive to that part of PO’s electorate that has grown disillusioned by PO’s attempts to win centre-left voters that the party largely abandoned for fear of losing its more conservative followers.

There are no polls yet that were carried out after Biedron’s convention. A few surveys completed before the event gave his party 8% support on average, behind only PiS and PO.