President of Poland Andrzej Duda has narrowly secured re-election, after an ugly election campaign that saw him resort to homophobic dog whistles.
According to preliminary results from Sunday’s run-off vote, the ultra-conservative Duda received 10,394,843 votes (51.22 per cent), giving him a wafer-thin margin of victory over the liberal candidate Rafal Trzaskowski, who received 9,901,371 votes (48.78 per cent).
The result suggests that the Duda’s election campaign tactic of repeatedly targeting LGBT+ people in an effort to tap into rising homophobic sentiment appears to have paid off.
President Andrzej Duda secures narrow victory after tapping into public homophobia.
Duda, an ultra-conservative who was backed by the ruling Law and Justice Party, has sought to bolster support for his campaign by attacking same-sex marriage, adoption and gay “ideology”.
In a “family charter” published ahead of the election, Duda pledged to “prohibit the propagation of this ideology” in public institutions and “defend the institution of marriage” as defined as a “relationship between a women and a man”.
With days to go until the run-off vote, Duda also proposed an amendment to Poland’s constitution that would ban same-sex couples from adopting children. He said: “I am convinced that, thanks to this, children’s safety and concern for the good of children will be ensured to a much greater extent.”
LGBT+ groups suggested that Duda was simply trying to ride back into power on the coat tails of a culture war, aping the tactics of far-right populists who have leveraged bigotry against other minorities elsewhere.
While he claimed an overall victory, exit polling reveals that Trzaskowski maintained a strong lead with younger voters, with Duda only clinching victory due to his support among the 50-59 and 60+ demographics.
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LGBT groups make clear: ‘Regardless of the result, there is a place for you.’
Ahead of the final result, Poland’s Campaign Against Homophobia assured LGBT+ people in the country: “Do remember that regardless of the result of the elections, you are important, there is a place for LGBT people!”
The group also shared a video from the actor Mateusz Janicki, which assured LGBT+ voters: “Remember, this is also your country, you have a place here, you have the right to fight for your happiness, you have the right to fight for your dreams. You are great, you are brave.”
Ahead of the vote, LGBT+ group Lambda Warszawa appealed “to all members of our group, to our families, allies and supporters for mass participation in the presidential election”.
The group said: “In view of the unprecedented hatred campaign that has been going on for several weeks against our community; in view of the tragic news about the suicides of people who could not stand the hate and persecution – we turn to everyone to ensure that the words ‘you are not human’ will never flow from the Presidential Palace!”
Taking aim at LGBT+ people is not a new tactic, with the Law and Justice Party successfully converting homophobic sentiment into political capital before – contributing to a surge in public homophobia and nationalist rhetoric over the past few years.
As part of the politically-driven attack on LGBT+ people, nearly 100 Polish municipal or local governments have proclaimed themselves zones “free from LGBT+ ideology” and opposing gay “propaganda” – covering nearly a third of the country.
The European Parliament passed a resolution that strongly condemned the concept of LGBT-free zones in December, noting that they are “part of a broader context of attacks against the LGBT+ community in Poland, which include growing hate speech by public and elected officials and public media, as well as attacks and bans on Pride marches”.