A progressive political party aimed at challenging Poland’s governing right-wing party has been launched by Robert Biedron, the popular former mayor of the northern town of Slupsk.

Biedron, Poland’s first openly gay politician, announced on February 3 he will enforce a strong separation of church and state in the heavily Catholic country where the clergy still wields considerable influence.

As reported by the Agence France-Presse (AFP), he also promised equal pay for women, easier access to abortion, recognition of gay partnerships along with a string of generous social spending measures including a new universal old age pension.

Biedron also vowed to “close all coal mines” by 2035 in a bid to stem chronic smog in the coal-dependent country that experts say causes an estimated 50,000 premature deaths per year in the country of 38 million people.

According to the findings of an opinion poll published last week by the independent IBRiS pollsters, Biedron’s fledgling party has already captured 6.4% popular support, albeit still a distant third behind the governing right-wing Law and Justice (PiS) party and the opposition liberal Civic Platform (PO).

Biedron’s “Spring” will run in the European Parliament elections in May before launching a campaign ahead of Poland’s general election later in 2019, reported AFP.