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  • Writer's pictureElzbieta M Gozdziak

Poland’s LGBTQ+ community replaced migrants in run-up to parliamentary elections

Tomorrow Poles will cast their votes in the 2019 parliamentary elections. The Polish diaspora will vote as well.

Four years ago, in 2015, fear of Muslim refugees and migrants dominated the election campaign of the national-conservative Law and Justice Party (PiS). Four years ago, Jarosław Kaczyński, the chairman of the PiS party, said Middle Eastern migrants might bring "parasites and protozoa" to Poland. Islam is not compatible with Polish Christian values, he added. In 2015, anti-migrant rhetoric helped PiS come to power.

Since Poland never saw many non-European refugees and migrants, the anti-migration rhetoric was hard to sustain. The political leadership had to find another issue to sustain the attention of the voting public.

This spring, as PiS was getting ready for European Parliament elections, Mr. Kaczyński identified another foreign danger. Rafał Trzaskowski, the mayor of Warsaw, had recently advocated integrating sex education and LGBT issues into school curricula, in accordance with World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines. Kaczyński likened these plans to “an attack on the family” and “an attack on children.” He called “LGBT ideology” an imported “threat to Polish identity, to our nation, to its existence and thus to the Polish state.”

With these comments, LGBT+ rights have become the single biggest cultural issue in Poland's election campaign ahead of tomorrow's vote. In the eyes of Jarosław Kaczyński and the Catholic Church, those rights are a threat to traditional Polish families and values. "Christianity is part of our national identity, the [Catholic] Church was and is the preacher and holder of the only commonly held system of values in Poland," he said. "Outside of it… we have only nihilism."

Senior Catholic Church figures have gone even further. Marek Jędraszewski, the Archbishop of Krakow, one of Poland’s most powerful Catholic prelates, in a sermon commemorating the 75th anniversary of the Warsaw Uprising against German occupation, likened gay rights activists to Soviet communist rulers. “Our land is no longer afflicted by the red plague, which doesn’t mean that there isn’t a new one that wants to control our souls, hearts and minds: not Marxist, Bolshevik, but born of the same spirit – not red, but rainbow.”

The party’s new focus on countering Western “LGBT ideology” has indeed replaced its previous outcries against migrants. Vilifying the Other worked for PiS in 2015. Will it work again? Let's hope not!

I will cast my vote in Bangkok. I will do so in the memory of my dear friend, Piotr, who died of AIDS in the 1990s.

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