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Bigger Than London? Anything to Help Win Elections in Warsaw

Updated on
  • Legislation seeks to boost Warsaw’s land area almost five-fold
  • Opposition says proposal shows disregard for democratic order

Poland’s governing party has a plan to take over Warsaw, and first it needs to make the city bigger than London.

Using a tried and tested route by politicians across the world, Law & Justice isn’t only rewriting Polish history, but also seeking to redraw the map. Legislation proposed by the party this week envisages stretching the city’s limits to include 33 nearby districts, effectively making it larger than the U.K. capital and nearly giving it the geographic reach of Moscow, which has almost five times more people.

The boundary change, which would increase Warsaw’s population by almost half to 2.6 million, has angered opposition lawmakers ahead of next year’s municipal elections. They say it would push Poland further away from the democratic standards advocated by the European Union. For Law & Justice, it makes sense: it has won in nearly all of the districts surrounding Warsaw, while losing in the more affluent capital.

“It amounts to the manipulation of constituencies on a scale that’s hard to conceive,” Anna Materska-Sosnowska, a political scientist at Warsaw University, said on Wednesday. “The fact that nobody asked for the opinion of people living in Warsaw and the neighboring districts proves this has nothing to do with citizens’ interests.”

‘On The Sly’

The proposal, which hasn’t yet been debated in parliament, would boost the area of Poland’s biggest city by almost five times to more than 2,400 square kilometers (927 square miles), according to Bloomberg calculations. Greater London is about 1,570 square kilometers and home to about 8.6 million people.

Warsaw Mayor Hanna Gronkiewicz-Waltz, from the opposition Civic Platform party, said Law & Justice was seeking to “take power on the sly.” Asked about the plans, Prime Minister Beata Szydlo told reporters the move would improve the finances of local administrations and the life of residents in the townships surrounding Warsaw.

“We’re building a Polish metropolis,” Szydlo said.