The far-right Confederation (Konfederacja) group will use the new parliamentary session to propose an “anti-LGBT law” that would “ban LGBT”. It will also put forward measures to restrict abortion and to prevent the “Holocaust industry” from using a new American law to profit from Jewish property restitution in Poland.
The plans were outlined in an interview with Rzeczpospolita by Janusz Korwin-Mikke, the leading figure in Confederation, an alliance of nationalists and right-wing libertarians that entered parliament with 7% of the vote at this month’s elections. Since its formation earlier this year, Confederation’s campaigning has sought to stoke opposition to LGBT rights, Jewish property restitution and abortion.
Ahead of May’s European elections, one of the group’s leading figures summed up its main policies as: “We don’t want Jews, homosexuals, abortion, taxes and the European Union”, Another of its leaders, newly elected MP Grzegorz Braun, is one of Poland’s foremost exponents of antisemitic conspiracy theories. He claims that “Jews have waged war against the Polish nation for centuries”, seeking to turn it into a “Jewish state”. Earlier this year he called for homosexuality to be criminalised, with “sodomites sent to prison”.
If Confederation did seek to introduce legislation in these areas, it would be a test for the ruling party. Law and Justice (PiS) has sought to appeal broadly to voters ranging from the centre-right to the nationalist fringe. This has required a balancing act between extreme rhetoric and more moderate language. It has also required PiS to avoid taking action in certain controversial areas, fearing the loss of more moderate support.
It is in these areas that Confederation intends to demonstrate that one “cannot believe in PiS’s assurances” because “it is afraid of voters’ reaction”, says Korwin-Mikke. On abortion, for example, despite regular claims from senior PiS figures that the party wants to tighten the law, it twice backed away from doing so during the last parliamentary term following mass “black protests” led by women.
PiS has also sought to avoid the topic of Jewish property restitution, an issue that risks causing tension with its American allies. A bipartisan group of 88 US senators recently called on the Trump administration to push Poland to introduce restitution legislation. The Justice for Uncompensated Survivors (JUST) Act, signed by President Trump last year, requires the State Department to monitor and report on restitution of Holocaust survivors’ assets. Confederation claims that the law is an attempt by Jews to extort billions of zloty from Poland, with one of its leaders accusing PiS of “wanting to sell Poland to the Jews”.
Conservative Polish press responds to US Senate bill on ensuring European countries provide restitution to Holocaust survivors. @Tygodnik_Sieci: "End This Madness: Issue that could cost Poland tens of billions"
— Notes from Poland 🇵🇱 (@notesfrompoland) January 23, 2018
Even on LGBT issues, despite PiS leading an anti-LGBT campaign during this year’s elections, it may be wary of going beyond homophobic rhetoric and introducing specific legislation. That would risk alienating more moderate supporters, could prompt further protests, and would put the government under further international pressure.
However, for Confederation to submit legislation it would require the backing of at least 15 MPs, and the group only has 11. If PiS maintains discipline in its parliamentary caucus, this would leave Confederation with few other potential allies. PiS spokesman Radosław Fogiel responded to Korwin-Mikke’s interview by accusing him of grandstanding.
Fogiel says that the new parliamentary term will see MPs from both the far right and the left “throwing ideas” around simply to “cause outrage”. However, the issue highlights the challenges that await PiS in the new parliamentary term, when it will face not only an organised challenge from the far right, but also the return of the left to the Sejm.