Opinion: Right-Wing Demagogue is Sending Poland Back to the Middle Ages

President Andrzej Duda is wrong for Poland

Andrzej Duda, leader of the Law and Justice or in Polish, Prawo i Sprawiedliwość (PiS) party defeated his opponent of the Civic Platform (Platforma Obywatelska), Mayor of Warsaw, Rafał Trzaskowski. One can surmise by the name of the party that he is a right-wing populist. Duda’s victory was by a razor-thin margin (51.0% to 49.0%) and regionally divided between Eastern and Western Poland. The Vistula River, which runs down the middle of Poland, has often been used to demarcate the urban West Poland from the agrarian East Poland. The West, which includes significant cities such as Gdańsk, Warsaw, and Wrocław, voted for Trzaskowski, whereas the East opted for Duda.  Duda’s ultimate win means that he will be Poland’s president until  2025: an ominous future, judging by his previous political decisions.

Similar to other right-wing populist politicians who have recently emerged in Europe and the United States, Duda employed the same conquer and divide tactics to win the 2020 Polish election. To rile up his supporters, he targeted the LGBTQ community. Duda likened the LGBTQ to Bolshevism, contending that LGBTQ is a new form of Bolshevism that corrupts the youth. Considering that Bolshevism is a left-wing political ideology, whereas the LGBTQ comprise a group of various sexual orientations, Duda’s assertions are arbitrary and inflammatory. He continued to target the LGBTQ by unveiling a law that he would set in motion if he won the election that would bar LGBTQ individuals from adopting children. This is blatant discrimination: as long as parents considering adoption are reasonably able to take care of a child, they should be allowed to adopt regardless of their sexual orientation. 

Duda’s Party, the PiS is in itself problematic in its politics and its people. For example, Jarosław Kaczyński, Duda’s mentor, and the leader of the PiS is an outspoken critic of the LGBTQ people and uses every opportunity to malign them. Their party politics rely on a Right-Wing interpretation of Catholicism, promoting ideas of homophobia, nationalism, xenophobia and the like. Kaczynski uses Catholicism to inveigh against the LGBTQ. He argues that every Pole must adhere to Catholicism and those that doubt the role of the Catholic Church are unpatriotic. Before the election, he argued that the LGBTQ “threaten our identity, our nation, its continuation and therefore the Polish state.” These two statements encapsulate how the PiS invokes religion to discriminate against those with different beliefs and sexual orientations. It also illustrates how Duda merely parrots Kaczynski’s rhetoric, which makes you wonder how much power Kaczynski exerts over the PiS. 

The reelection of Duda has brought about active persecution of marginalized groups: for instance, 48 LGBTQ protestors were arrested recently for slashing the tires of a van that drives around broadcasting the message “homosexuals are preparing society to accept pedophilia,” a slogan that sounds all too similar to the sentiments of the PiS.

Duda and his party represent sentiments of violent nationalism. Like the current US President Donald Trump, Duda attacks his country’s allies. Poland’s biggest ally is Germany, but Duda’s party has consistently antagonized Germany since his first term in 2015. When millions of refugees fled from war-torn countries in Africa and the Middle East to seek asylum in Europe in 2015,  he refused to allow refugees into Poland, breaking the European Union (EU) law. In 2019, the PiS wanted Germany to pay Poland $850bn in war reparations for World War II. When Fakt, a German-Polish tabloid, reported on Duda’s pardon of a pedophile, he accused Germany of attempting to tamper in the election. Germany is Poland’s biggest trade partner. It is a shame that Duda demonizes them in order to foster his own support. Duda is also a hypocritical skeptic of the  EU, often whining about the EU while reaping its benefits. In fact, Poland was allocated the most money from all members of the EU, $ 77.6bln between 2014 and 2020. The allocation sought to help Poland develop its infrastructure and its economy, doubling its GDP from 2003. 

If the EU has helped Poland so much, why does Duda oppose it? I think the answer lies in the values that other EU countries have adopted. Maybe someone should notify Duda that the world left the Middle Ages 600 years ago. The PiS can cling onto Catholicism as long as it wants, but if it does not want Poland to become isolated from the rest of Europe, it should update its outlook. Hopefully, the younger generations of Poles can see past the illusion of populism and the regressive policies that the PiS endorses. 

 

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in the article belong to the contributor and may not necessarily reflect those of The McGill Daily editorial board.