Hundreds of thousands of people took part in an opposition rally in Warsaw today, two weeks before parliamentary elections which the liberal Political Platform (PO) says could determine Poland’s future in the European Union and its democratic status.

Polls show the government of the nationalist Law and Justice (PiS) party is likely to win the election but may struggle to secure a majority amid discontent over rising living costs and concerns about the erosion of democratic checks and balances.

The Warsaw municipality reported that around one million people took part in the biggest rally ever held in the capital. Public broadcaster TVP, which independent media observers say has turned under PiS rule into a government mouthpiece, reported, citing police, that 100,000 people took part.

Online news network reported that it estimated 600,000-800,000 people took part in the rally.

Some held banners with slogans such as “PiSexit” or “The cat can stay,” a reference to PiS leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski’s pet.

“I want to tell you how we are over a million,” Donald Tusk, former prime minister and head of the PO, told the protesters.

He claimed it was “the biggest political demonstration in the history of Poland” and “the biggest political rally in the world today”.

“We are Poland”, he said at the end of this “march of a million hearts”, as he called it, during which a dense crowd filled the main arteries of the capital.

Attacking PiS, he said “Poland deserves better, I am convinced that Poland deserves the best”.

“We are here to win” in the October 15 election, Tusk added, while protesters chanted “We will win!”.

Tusk, a former European Council president, has said PiS may be aiming to take Poland out of the EU, which the party denies, and has called the election crucial for minority and women’s rights.

PiS, in power since 2015, campaigned on a promise to keep migrants out of Poland, saying the issue was critical to national security, and to continue funneling money to families and the elderly.

PiS denies Western criticism that it has undermined democratic norms and says its reforms to the judicial system are intended to make the country fairer and rid it of the remnants of communism, while its changes to public media will rid it of them. from foreign influence.

But it still does not have access to billions of euros from the EU Recovery Fund that Brussels is withholding because of reforms to the Polish judicial system.