Openly gay Polish mayor launches 'pro-democracy' movement

Warsaw (AFP) –


An openly gay Polish mayor launched what he termed a "pro-democratic" political movement on Tuesday 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 mayor of the northern town of Slupsk, comes as Poland gears up for four elections -- both domestic and European -- over the next 21 months.

"Our number one goal is for pro-democratic forces to win in Poland with our group, our political force in the forefront," Biedron, 42, told reporters on in central Warsaw.

He launched a nationwide tour that he said will culminate in February with the launch of a "new political project" ahead of May elections to the European parliament.

"I'm calling on those who voted for Law and Justice and have become disillusioned with it... both my feet are in the pro-democratic camp," Biedron said, describing his movement as "progressive".

Biedron said his bid was inspired, among others, by the progressive "En Marche!" movement that propelled its head Emmanuel Macron to the French presidency last year.

"I'm ready to speak with everyone who respects the Polish constitution -- for me, that's the most important," he added at a press conference called on the Polish capital's Constitution Square.

Biedron's bid comes amid a bitter long-running confrontation between the European Commission and Poland's Law and Justice (PiS) government over the rule of law in the former communist state.

In December, Brussels triggered unprecedented Article 7 proceedings against Warsaw over "systemic threats" posed to the rule of law by a string of PiS judicial reforms.

The move could eventually see Poland's EU voting rights suspended.

Biedron, also a political scientist who advocates for LGBT rights, made headlines in 2011 when he was elected the first openly gay member of parliament in conservative, heavily Catholic Poland.

Espousing a conservative, Catholic and nationalist stance, the right-wing PiS came to power in 2015 after eight years of government dominated by the liberal Civic Platform (PO) party, which has since foundered in the opinion polls.

With the Polish economy set to expand around five percent this year, various opinion polls show that the PiS can count on around 40 percent of the electorate, while a coalition of established centrist and liberal parties could muster just over 30 percent of the vote.