Polish president attacks LGBT rights as he heads to run-off
By VANESSA GERA AND MONIKA SCISLOWSKA | Associated Press | Published: June 29, 2020
WARSAW, Poland — Poland’s conservative president, Andrzej Duda, promised Monday to protect traditional Polish values against LGBT rights after a first-round presidential election that gave him the most votes but forced him into a run-off.
Duda’s immediate return to a theme that he has raised frequently during his campaign was an indication that he is heading into a tight run-off with Warsaw’s centrist mayor by seeking to win the votes of those on the far right, not the political center.
Nearly complete results from Sunday’s balloting show Duda, who is backed by the populist, ruling Law and Justice party, winning nearly 44% of the votes.
In second place was Rafal Trzaskowski, the pro-European Union mayor, who won slightly more than 30%.
The two will face each other in a July 12 run-off that is shaping up as a suspenseful standoff between two 48-year-old politicians who represent the sides of a bitter cultural divide.
Whether or not Duda wins will determine whether Law and Justice will keep its near-monopoly on power. During the past five years, the party has taken control of the country’s judicial system in a way that the EU has denounced as violating democratic values.
The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, which monitored the election, said that it was run professionally. But it also said public media, which heavily favored Duda, “failed in its duty to offer balanced and impartial coverage.”
“Inflammatory language by the incumbent and his campaign was at times xenophobic and homophobic,” the OSCE also said in a statement Monday.
While Trzaskowski trailed Duda on Sunday, in a run-off he would likely gain many voters from the nine other candidates who have now been eliminated, including a progressive Catholic independent, Szymon Holownia, who won won nearly 14%.
Also up for grabs will be the nearly 7% of votes that went to a far-right candidate, Krzysztof Bosak.
On state radio Monday morning, Duda stressed how his values line up with those of Bosak, calling same-sex marriage “alien” and depicting Trzaskowski as “left-wing.”
Earlier this month, Duda said the LGBT-rights movement promotes a viewpoint more dangerous than communism. Despite street protests in Poland and criticism from the EU and other foreign leaders, Duda appeared to be returning to that theme, though with slightly toned-down language.
He said “ideological materials” must be kept out of schools and said that any pro-LGBT materials in school would remind him of his childhood, when the communist regime taught children one ideology and children learned something else in their homes.
Trzaskowski’s program calls for allowing same-sex civil partnerships but not marriage, and he largely has avoided the issue on the campaign trail.
He, too, has sought to win some of Bosak’s voters by stressing their shared free-market views.
Bosak is a lawmaker with the party Confederation, which entered parliament for the first time last year on a program that is anti-American and anti-EU and opposes LGBT rights.
The party’s pro-market positions have won over libertarians who oppose Law and Justice’s strong involvement in the economy.
Marek Migalski, a commentator and EU lawmaker, wrote on the right-wing Do Rzeczy news site that he expects Bosak’s voters to be “neutralized” in the run-off. He argued some won’t vote, some will back Duda and some will “tactically” vote for Trzaskowski to weaken Law and Justice, which Confederation sees as a rival conservative and nationalist force.
Further complicating the bid for Bosak’s voters is that they are not a uniform bloc.
Anna Materska-Sosnowska, a political scientist at the University of Warsaw, said support for Bosak does not necessarily reflect the level of support for far-right radicalism in Poland because of the way Bosak avoided radical public statements during the president campaign.
“He presented himself as a well-groomed, nice gentleman in a suit, appealing to many that way,” she said.
Duda’s support reflects the popularity he has among many older and rural Poles for the mix of social conservatism and generous welfare spending that he and Law and Justice have espoused.
“I am sure that we can build here a land of milk and honey,” Duda told voters in Strzelce, a village in central Poland, on Sunday night.
“A country that will also be safe, free of terrorist threats, without all that is often the bane of Western Europe, a country based on tradition, on its tested values that have more often than not helped us weather difficult times,” Duda said.
Poland’s state electoral commission announced the results of the election Monday based on a count of nearly 99.8% of all votes.