Polish president attacks LGBT rights as he heads to runoff with Warsaw mayor

Polish president attacks LGBT rights as he heads to runoff with Warsaw mayor

Poland’s conservative president Andrzej Duda has promised 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 runoff.

His immediate return to a theme he has raised frequently during his campaign was an indication that he is heading into a tight race with Warsaw’s centrist mayor by seeking to win the votes of those on the far right, not the political centre.

Nearly complete results from Sunday’s balloting show that Mr Duda, who is backed by the populist ruling Law and Justice party, won nearly 44% of the votes.

In second place was Rafal Trzaskowski, the pro-European Union mayor, with slightly over 30%.

The two will face each other in a July 12 runoff that is shaping up as a standoff between two 48-year-old politicians who represent opposing sides of a bitter cultural divide.

Andrzej Duda (Petr David Josek/AP)
Andrzej Duda (Petr David Josek/AP)

Whether or not Mr Duda wins will determine whether Law and Justice keeps its near-monopoly on power. Over the past five years the party has taken control of the country’s judicial system in a way the EU has denounced as violating democratic values.

The Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe, which monitored the election, said it was professionally run, but added that public TV broadcaster “became a campaign tool for the incumbent, while some reporting had clear xenophobic and anti-Semitic undertones”.

“The campaign itself was characterised by negative rhetoric by the leading candidates that further aggravated the already confrontational atmosphere,” the OSCE said in a statement. “Inflammatory language by the incumbent and his campaign was at times xenophobic and homophobic.”

While Mr Trzaskowski trailed Mr Duda on Sunday, in a runoff he would be likely to gain many votes from the nine other candidates who have been eliminated, including a progressive Catholic independent, Szymon Holownia, who won nearly 14%.

Rafal Trzaskowski (Czarek Sokolowski/AP)
Rafal Trzaskowski (Czarek Sokolowski/AP)

Up for grabs will also be the nearly 7% of votes that went to a far-right candidate, Krzysztof Bosak.

On state radio on Monday morning, Mr Duda stressed how his values line up with those of Mr Bosak, calling same-sex marriage “alien” and depicting Mr Trzaskowski as left-wing.

Earlier this month, Mr Duda said the LGBT rights movement promotes a viewpoint more dangerous than communism. Despite street protests in Poland and criticism from the EU, he appeared to be returning to that theme, with slightly toned-down language.

He said “ideological materials” must be kept out of schools and any pro-LGBT material in school would remind him of his childhood, when the communist regime taught children one ideology and children learned something else in their homes.

Mr Trzaskowski’s programme calls for allowing same-sex civil partnerships but not marriage, and he has largely avoided the issue on the campaign trail.

He has sought to win some of Mr Bosak’s voters by stressing their shared free-market views.

Mr Bosak is a legislator with the Confederation party, which entered parliament for the first time last year on a programme that is anti-American and anti-EU and opposes LGBT rights.

The party’s pro-market positions have won over some libertarians who oppose Law and Justice’s strong involvement in the economy.

Poland’s state electoral commission announced the results of the election on Monday based on a count of nearly 99.8% of votes.

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