Hoisting their own placards, reminiscent of the historic Solidarity movement over thirty years ago, youthful voices now echo through the old Lenin shipyard in Gdansk, Poland. This hallowed ground, once the epicentre of pivotal worker strikes that ignited sweeping political changes, now hosts debates about safeguarding democracy amongst the younger generation.
Under the looming, conservative shadow of the right-wing Law and Justice party (PiS), these passionate activists fear that the freedoms and rights forged through the Solidarity movement are endangered. PiS, asserting their stronghold, is aiming to secure an unprecedented third term in office.
Activist and student Julia Landowska encapsulates the gravity of the upcoming vote: “It’s a crucial election. We’re deciding whether we’re reverting to a democratic country. This is our final call to participate in the election and fight for a brighter future in Poland.”
Fellow Gdansk citizens share these apprehensions. Their concerns are rooted in the gradual erosion of judicial independence under the present PiS rule, alongside regression in women’s rights, particularly the looming near-total ban on abortion. Rising tension with Brussels over judiciary reform and migration, coupled with diminished media freedom, add fuel to the flame.
The electoral date of 15 October now reverberates through Poland as a watershed moment since the historic 1989 election. The northern port city of Gdansk, forever branded by its struggle for freedom, is drenched in memories of the Solidarity protest led by electrician Lech Walesa. His son, Jaroslaw Walesa, continues the family legacy by running for re-election this year. His primary concern is Poland’s rapidly deteriorating relationship with the EU.
Even amid troubling nationwide polls favoring PiS, Gdansk is set to staunchly back the opposition. Yet as the Law and Justice Party potentially lacks the majority to create a government, an intense last-minute scramble for votes unfolds.
Gdansk bears the scars of old wounds and the frays of discord are visible in current campaigns where words are wielded as weapons, adding to the cosmic clash between tradition and transformation. Despite the hostile election atmosphere and receiving threats, politicians like Piotr Adamowicz continue their quest to safeguard democracy – a legacy stained by the blood of his assassinated brother and former Mayor, Pawel Adamowicz.
The rallying cry “Don’t sleep, or they’ll outvote you!” once again resonates through the city, emphasizing the essence of this electoral turning point. The disillusioned youth express their anxieties about the state of democracy in Poland and pledge to cast their votes for change: “Step by step, they are seizing more from us,” says Julia Landowska. “We believe this election can transform Poland fundamentally. Therefore, it’s crucial to vote and shape our future.”