Tens of thousands of Poles protest in Warsaw over alleged election rigging

Tens of thousands of Poles protest in Warsaw over alleged election rigging
Thousands of people have taken to the streets in Warsaw to protest recent election results. Law and Justice party leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski says the ballots were falsified with almost 20 percent of the votes being declared invalid.

Kaczynski’s supporters are marching under the slogan “in support of democracy.”

The organizers of the rally claim that over 100,000 people have turned out to protest, which would be the largest demonstration in the history of post-war Poland. However, reports from the Polish newspaper, Wyborcza, say this figure has been significantly inflated. Other estimates have put the figure at around 60,000, the paper adds.

Joachim Brudzinski, the President of the Law and Justice Executive Committee, made a plea for calm earlier in the march, as previous rallies have ended in violence.“We do not want any provocative banners,”he said.“We want this march to be peaceful. To the people of Poland - the whole of Europe saw our determination to fight for a democratic, sovereign, independent Republic,”he added, as reported by Wyborcza.

Jaroslaw Kaczynski (C rear), leader of the Polish Law and Justice (PiS) party, takes part in a demonstration march in Warsaw December 13, 2014. (Reuters/Jacek Marczewski/Agencja Gazeta)

The controversy was caused by a computer glitch, which delayed the release of results, while many ballot papers were annulled because voters became confused and marked them incorrectly, according to AP.

More than 1,000 challenges to the results have so far been registered in various courts around Poland. A group of MEP’s have also raised questions concerning the validity of the local elections, with both the first round on November 16 and the second round two weeks later being affected.

People carry Polish flags during a demonstration march in Warsaw December 13, 2014. (Reuters/Jacek Marczewski/Agencja Gazeta)

Concerns over the legitimacy of the results have also been raised by a group of MEP, and more than 1,000 challenges to the results have so far been registered in courts around Poland.

Critics of Kaczynski say he is making false claims about the local elections to boost his own profile and to influence the electorate ahead of next year’s national elections, Inside Poland reports.

The march coincided with the 33rd anniversary of the start of martial law in Poland on December 13, 1981, when tanks rolled through the streets and those with connections to the Solidarity movement were arrested.

On November 11, at least 276 people were arrested and just under 50 people were injured after clashes broke out in the Polish capital, as nationalists took to the streets to mark National Independence Day.

Protesters carry Polish flags during a demonstration march in Warsaw December 13, 2014. (Reuters/Adam Stepien/Agencja Gazeta)

Tens of thousands marched through the Polish capital on Tuesday, with many carrying the national flag. Extremist nationalist groups, such as the Radical Camp and the All-Polish Youth, attended the march.

In 2013, police had to deploy rubber bullets and pepper spray to disperse demonstrators, who were besieging the Russian Embassy in Warsaw with firecrackers and bottles.

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