Robert Biedroń was the first openly gay member of Poland’s Parliament when he was elected in 2011. In 2014, he broke the same ground when he was elected mayor of the city of Slupsk, a position he still holds today.
Now, the 42-year-old open atheist has launched his own political party in order to gain traction against conservatives beholden to the Catholic Church. (More than 90% of the Polish population is Roman Catholic.) If his party gains enough seats in Parliament, he could one day become the nation’s leader.
At the same time, a lot of critics see him like a Polish version of Starbucks founder Howard Schultz. By creating his own party, they say, he could siphon off liberal supporters from the current progressive party and make it even easier for the conservative Law and Justice party to remain in power.
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 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.
“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.”
The elections are slated for later this year. While many polls have Biedroń losing to other candidates, it’s early. What’s surprising to me is that the criticism against him has little to do with the characteristics that would be political poison in the United States. His atheism and homosexuality just aren’t all that controversial to younger citizens. And by focusing on social issues and being a solid advocate for the European Union, he may win over older voters who might be turned off by his godlessness.
At a time when hyper-nationalistic, anti-immigration politicians have caused so much chaos across the globe, progressives are pushing back and have the momentum. Biedroń is trying to capitalize on that. Poland would be better off with him at the helm.
(Screenshot via YouTube. Portions of this article were posted earlier)