Polish Leader Casts Gays as Enemy in Bid to Revive Campaign

(Bloomberg) -- Poland’s president stepped up a political attack against the LGBT community, portraying gay people as enemies in a bid to jump-start his stalled campaign for a second term in this month’s election.

Returning to a tactic that the nationalist ruling Law & Justice Party has used to woo voters in the staunchly Catholic European Union nation, President Andrzej Duda signed a family-values declaration on Wednesday. He vowed to “protect children from LGBT ideology” and prohibit the propagation of such ideas by public institutions.

Polish Leader Casts Gays as Enemy in Bid to Revive Campaign

“This is a foreign ideology that we won’t allow to be introduced into our country,” Duda said. The issue of LGBT rights and sex education seeks to “penetrate into our reality, sometimes by force,” he said.

Struggling to distance itself from allegations of corruption and flouting social-distancing rules during the coronavirus crisis, Law & Justice’s woes are reflected in support ratings for Duda, a former member. If he loses, it will hand veto power to an opposition that already controls the upper house of parliament and would threaten to end the party’s five-year bid to transform Poland according to its nativist values.

Last week, Premier Mateusz Morawiecki pledged to defend Poles from “ideological experiments,” while another Law & Justice official compared same-sex marriages -- which are illegal in Poland -- to zoophila.

Kicking off culture wars before past elections have helped polarize the electorate and energize Law & Justice’s core voters. Poland ranks worst in the EU for LGBT rights, according to the international advocacy group ILGA.

Us And Them

The president’s strong lead has slipped in past weeks, and while he’s seen winning the June 28 first round of voting, opinion polls show him neck-and-neck with Warsaw Mayor Rafal Trzaskowski in a runoff slated to take place two weeks later.

Polish Leader Casts Gays as Enemy in Bid to Revive Campaign

“Turing gays into enemies can work in Duda’s favor as his support reservoir is largely based in provincial Poland,” said Anna Materska-Sosnowska, a political scientist at Warsaw University.

Law & Justice has been successful in portraying itself as the defender of Polish traditions and the Christian faith from liberal Europe. Public television, a mouthpiece of the government, is running stories about whether Trzaskowski is truly Catholic and whether his son went to first communion.

Duda tweeted that under his watch, marriage will remain a union between a man and a woman. In reaction, Trzaskowski said that if he wins, he’ll represent all types of families, including single-parent ones, as “the role of the Polish president is to build a community.”

Ruling party lawmaker Tomasz Rzymkowski said last week that the country of 38 million faced a “civilizational choice.” He posted a cartoon on social media comparing gay marriage to that of a man and a goat.

‘Aggressive Moves’

ILGA, the rights group, said last month that a number of European governments, including Poland’s, have “used the pandemic as an excuse to make aggressive moves” against the LGBT community.

Russian President Vladimir Putin is drumming up support for a referendum, in which he wants to strengthen the country’s ban on gay marriage, with anti-LGBT propaganda. Conservative Slovak lawmakers also rejected a report of the country’s human rights ombudsman, saying it was too focused on gay issues and light on religious freedom.

Law & Justice leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski said last year that the gay lobby was seeking to change the Polish way of life. In reaction, some 80 Polish municipalities declared themselves “LGBT-free zones.”

The move worried the European Commission, which asked Poland for an explanation regarding the contested areas two weeks ago.

Declaring territories or workplaces unwelcome for select citizens goes “against the values set out in the EU treaty,” the commission said.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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