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Poland's new progressive party springs into strong third place

Biedron has vowed to focus on uniting a deeply polarised country
AFP/File
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Warsaw (AFP)

A new progressive political party in Poland led by an openly gay politician scored a strong third place in an opinion poll published on Monday, suggesting it could challenge the governing right-wing party's majority.

Poland is gearing up for elections to the European Parliament in May, followed by general elections at home which must be held by November.

Launched just over a week ago, "Spring" scored 16.2 percent support, trailing the opposition Civic Platform (PO) by just 5.6 percent in a survey by the independent IBRIS pollsters for the broadsheet Rzeczpospolita daily.

The PO took 21.8 percent behind the governing Law and Justice (PiS) party which scored 37.1 percent in the survey conducted February 7-8 on a random representative sample of 1,000 adult Poles.

"It's still unclear whether this phenomenon will last since it's just been a week from the party's founding convention," Warsaw University political scientist Anna Materska-Sosnowska told AFP.

- 'Fantastic political marketing' -

The poll result "could reflect the momentum of that convention, a certain freshness and fantastic political marketing" she said, adding that the party "could deprive the PiS of an absolute majority".

The Spring party's founder, Robert Biedron, an openly gay former MP and the popular ex-mayor of the northern town of Slupsk, has vowed to enforce a strong separation of church and state -- including taxing church income -- in the heavily Catholic country.

Now a career politician, Biedron has long campaigned for equal rights for homosexuals. Before throwing his hat into the political ring, he launched the Campaign against Homophobia NGO in Poland in 2001.

He has promised recognition of gay partnerships, equal pay for women, easier access to abortion and free internet, 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.

The charismatic 42-year-old, whose style is reminiscent of Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, has also vowed to focus on uniting a 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.

Biedron is also positioning Spring to challenge PiS policies that have put Poland on a collision course with the EU.

Since winning power in 2015, the PiS has introduced a string of controversial judicial reforms that Brussels has warned pose a threat to judicial independence, the rule of law and democracy.

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