Walesa Wades Back Into Polish Politics With Vote-Monitoring Plan

(Bloomberg) -- Former Polish president and democracy icon Lech Walesa set up a committee to monitor elections and help a splintered opposition unite, taking a step back toward active politics.

Walesa, 74, said he believes Poland’s government is reversing the democratic order he helped create decades ago when his Solidarity union brokered the end of communist rule and set the country of 38 million on a path toward European Union and NATO membership. Poland’s current nationalist rulers have been accused by the EU of eroding the rule of law, raising the specter of unprecedented political sanctions as well as cuts in aid from the bloc.

“They say you shouldn’t go into the same river twice, but I’m trying to do exactly that,” Walesa said in the Baltic port of Gdansk on Saturday, announcing his initiative with the leaders of pro-EU opposition parties in a briefing telecast across the country. “But our fate is not to rest, not to relax. We have to again head into battle” because Poland is “now being destroyed.”

The Law & Justice party has said it won a mandate for sweeping political changes from voters, including to overhaul a justice system it believes is run by a “caste” of self-serving judges. While the ruling party remains popular, according to opinion polls, it has changed election laws in a way that risk the integrity of future ballots, according to the country’s election commission.

Read more about Walesa’s legacy as Poland clashes with Europe

Walesa, who hasn’t been active in day-to-day politics for years while touring on a lecture circuit for former political heavyweights, said his committee will seek to ensure the election process remains fair. It will be staffed by pro-democracy civic groups, former Solidarity activists who worked to overthrow communism as well as current opposition politicians.

Poland is set to hold local-administration polls this year and general elections in 2019.

©2018 Bloomberg L.P.

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