The head of the ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party, Jarosław Kaczyński, has told the party’s youth convention that Poland is an “island of freedom” and that Andrzej Duda must be re-elected as president in order for this freedom to be expanded.

Kaczyński, who holds no formal state position but is Poland’s de facto leader, also said that Duda’s meeting yesterday with Donald Trump at the White House is part of his “fight for Poland’s freedom”.

As well as courting the youth vote, the PiS leader also become the first signatory on a bill presented at the convention which aims to address the gender wage gap.

Kaczyński was the star turn at the PiS Youth Forum in Lublin in eastern Poland, held under the slogan “We know what we want”.

But in his biggest public contribution so far to President Duda’s re-election campaign, he steered clear of inflammatory language, sticking to a theme that has been a mainstay of speeches in recent years.

The PiS chairman said that the word summing up his young audience’s aspirations, expectations and dreams was “freedom”, reports RMF24. Yet although “whole libraries” have been written about this word, he continued, the conflict over what it means has never been resolved, and true freedom remains a “rare commodity”.

“Freedom is under threat, and in fact is being removed in many of those countries where in a legal sense freedoms exist…Today political freedom and the associated censorship…all of this means that it is hard to speak of freedom.”

According to Kaczyński, “Poland is and should remain an island of freedom. When I said this ten or 12 years ago I was certain that it is, but today I know that it is a task to make it so…for all generations – both the young ones and the more mature ones like me.”

“If today President Andrzej Duda is in the United States holding talks about Polish-American relations, including in the military sphere, he is fighting for freedom, Polish freedom,” Kaczyński continued. “The camp of good change headed by Andrzej Duda is the camp of freedom. Today and tomorrow.”

The Polish president is allied with PiS, which has used the slogan “good change” to refer to its rule since returning to power in 2015. Duda was in Washington, DC yesterday to meet his American counterpart just days before Sunday’s rearranged presidential election.

“If we want everything that is so attractive in our world, our civilisation, and can provide people with a beautiful life, to be not just a dream, but the future of our nation, then we must say clearly: Andrzej Duda must be the president of Poland,” Kaczyński told his young audience in Lublin.

Kaczyński’s conception of Poland as an “island of freedom” has been a common motif in his rhetoric, often used to contrast his country to, as he sees it, oppressive “political correctness” in western countries.

The term featured in a number of Kaczyński’s speeches last year, including at a party conference in September ahead of parliamentary elections, where he also rejected the “experiments…carried out at the expense of children” in the West – a reference to PiS’s campaign against “LGBT ideology”.

PiS also presented a new bill at the convention which aims to address the gender wage gap by adding “differentiation of the amount of pay on the basis of the employee’s sex” to the legal definition of workplace harassment. The new legislation is to be submitted to parliament shortly, reports Wprost.

Michał Moskal, the president of the PiS Youth Forum and since May the director of Kaczyński’s office, introduced the draft legislation before announcing the party leader’s arrival on stage.

“Women still receive lower wages for doing the same work as men. This is unfair and derogatory…We have the first signature on this bill. The signature of Jarosław Kaczyński.”

In March, Poland’s first ever legislation aiming to reduce the pay gap between women and men was proposed by the Congress of Women, Poland’s leading women’s rights organisation.

“The pay gap is a fact, although many people deny its existence,” its president, Anna Karaszewska, said at the time. “The economic situation is quite good, and yet economic deactiviation of women is ongoing, especially among young Poles. Pay levels are one of the factors…that might affect women’s return to the labour market.”

New legislation aims to close gender pay gap in Poland

The themes emphasised at the convention, including green issues and animal rights, indicated that PiS’s youth wing was keen to demonstrate the party’s appeal to young voters.

“We want to show that party chairman Jarosław Kaczyński and the entire Law and Justice Camp treats young people’s issues seriously,” said Moskal, quoted by Wprost.

A recent poll by Ipsos for suggested that just 19% of people aged 18-29 will vote for President Duda in the upcoming election, trailing his challenger from the Civic Platform (PO) Rafał Trzaskowski (30%), and roughly level with independent candidate Szymon Hołownia (20%) and far-right contender Krzysztof Bosak (19%).

Main image credit: Agencja Gazeta/Jakub Orzechowski

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