Gay atheist politician launches movement to take on Poland’s conservative and religious establishment

A gay atheist has launched his own party in a bid to take on Poland’s conservative political establishment and curb the influence of the Catholic Church.

Robert Biedron announced the name of his party, Wiosna (Spring), to a packed Warsaw conference hall on Sunday in what he hopes will be the first step in unseating Law and Justice, the conservative governing party which has strong Church ties.

The 42-year-old Mr Biedron rose to national prominence when he became the country’s first openly gay MP in 2011, and later went on to become mayor of the northern town of Slupsk. He stepped down from his post at the end of last year to focus on forming a new political movement.

Address a crowd of thousands, Mr Biedron said he wanted to bring an end to the deep divisions in Polish politics and society.

"We want no more Polish-Polish war, we want mutual respect and dialogue” he said. “These last years have been cold and gloomy. Instead of talks we got unending conflict, instead of common good, party interests, instead of empathy, growing enmity. May this change at last.

“We are the spring, we bring in fresh air to Polish politics,” he added.

The social progressive also unveiled a raft of measures that will put him on a collision course with the Church and a political establishment that has consistently either supported it or shied away from curtailing its influence in a country regarded as one of the most Catholic in Europe.

He said Wiosna would end tax breaks for the Catholic Church, stop religious lessons in school, and guarantee access to contraception and the right to an abortion until the twelfth week of pregnancy.

Such measures are likely to provoke consternation in the conservative circles that have dominated Polish politics in recent years, and risk stymying his chances of accumulating real political power.

But, speaking to The Telegraph before Sunday’s launch, Mr Biedron said he rejected the notion of a Catholic Poland.

“Ever since Law and Justice came to power a lot of headlines in the international media covering Polish politics start with a term ‘Catholic Poland’. It’s easy, catchy and feeds on stereotypes but the problem is that it is not really true,” he said. 

“If that was the case, how on earth could a gay atheist become a mayor, let alone be one of the most popular politicians in the country?” he added. “Only by engaging with new segments of voters can we, the democratic Polish politicians, secure Poland’s future at the heart of a united Europe, and as an open, wealthy and strong state.”

Some opinion polls suggest Mr Biedron has a point. One published in December in Fakt24, a news website, put him as the politician most likely to unseat Law and Justice. Another poll in January placed his movement, which still had no name at the time, behind Law and Justice and the main opposition party Civic Platform, but ahead of more established parties.

He added that Wiosna would appeal to people “frustrated with the status quo” of Polish politics.

“Voters want a real change, especially those who share a progressive, liberal and open worldview but have virtually no representation,” he told The Telegraph. “The Polish parliament is currently occupied by right wing and conservative parties but what will come as a surprise to many is that Polish society is way more liberal and progressive than our politics.

“When it comes to ambitions, I say it openly: I want to become the next prime minister of Poland and shape the future of our politics,” he added.