Share story

WARSAW, Poland (AP) — Lech Walesa, Poland’s former president and pro-democracy leader, said Saturday he is joining forces with the opposition to prevent Poland’s right-wing ruling party from winning a string of upcoming elections.

The 74-year-old Walesa spoke at a meeting of opposition parties and activists in the Baltic city of Gdansk, at the center dedicated to the Solidarity movement he led in the 1980s that brought democracy to Poland.

He said the ruling conservative Law and Justice party is threatening democracy, and that a joint effort was needed to prevent it from winning further terms in power. Among those at Gdansk meeting were heads of Civic Platform and Modern parties, and movements that have organized massive street protests, including the Committee for the Defense of Democracy and Women’s Protest. They oppose the government’s policies, saying they are divisive for the nation and destructive for its international relations.

Poland has local elections in the fall, European Parliament and national parliament elections in 2019 and a presidential vote in 2020.

The European Commission is now threatening sanctions against Poland, saying the ruling conservative government’s changes to the justice system are violating the rule of law.

“Our achievements, which we had won through such tough struggle, are being destroyed in the country and outside it,” Walesa told the meeting. “We must muster all our strength and win back what we have lost through our lack of attention and lack of wisdom.”

The Nobel Peace Prize winner was referring to the 2015 presidential and parliamentary elections that the pro-EU Civic Platform party lost to Law and Justice.

The meeting Saturday comes as questions are being raised about the future of Law and Justice due to the illness of its leader and Poland’s most powerful politician, Jaroslaw Kaczynski. He spent over a month in the hospital being treated for a knee problem and was only briefly seen earlier this month as he returned home. His absence from the public has provoked questions about his health and speculation as to any successors.