Jarosław Kaczyński, the chairman of Poland’s ruling party and the country’s de facto leader, has warned that “Poland’s future is at stake” in Sunday’s presidential election.
Opposition candidate Rafał Trzaskowski does not “have a Polish heart and soul”, suggested Kaczyński. If he wins the presidency, it would open Poland up to German influence, Jewish restitution claims, an “LGBT offensive” and forced euthanasia.
“The stake in these elections is the cohesion and continuance of the nation,” said Kaczyński in an extensive interview for Radio Maryja and TV Trwam, which are part of a media network linked to Father Tadeusz Rydzyk, an influential priest and ally of the ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party.
“There is a battle for the future of Poland[,]…our civilisation, our culture, its existence,” continued the PiS chairman, who called for Poles to vote for Andrzej Duda, the incumbent president and a PiS ally.
Opposition “treat Poland as an appendage of Germany”
“We have pursued a policy aimed at raising [Poland’s] status and position,” said Kaczyński. “Our political opponents are completely indifferent to these issues; in fact, they are ready to treat Poland as an appendage of Germany.”
“We want to be a great European nation, [but] they do not, because they know that if Poland is a great European nation, ‘the elite’, in quotation marks, will have no voice in Poland.”
The PiS chairman – who holds no state office other than being an MP but is a controlling figure behind the scenes – claimed that his party’s government has improved Poland’s international standing.
Its “good policies”, he asserted, have “resulted in the fact that they have to listen to us in the European Union, in the sense that they take into account our voice, and it is really being heard right now”.
Kaczyński also noted that “the current state of Polish-American relations is a really good guarantee of Polish security”.
“Brutal intervention by the German press” in the election
Kaczyński hit out against “interference” by German-owned media in the election campaign. Duda last week complained about how a partly German-owned Polish newspaper published details about a convicted child sex abuser whom the president had pardoned.
“The Germans want to choose the president in Poland,” said Duda. “Today we have the latest instalment of the German attack in this election, a ruthless dirty campaign, this time directed against me.”
Kaczyński continued the theme today, warning that “external forces are usurping the right to decide who will rule in Poland, and thus taking away from Poles something that is truly sacred – independence and sovereignty”.
“An extremely brutal and far-reaching intervention from the German press has taken place,” Kaczyński claimed. “In the future, we must prevent this kind of situation.”
The PiS government has long promised to “repolonise” the media by reducing foreign ownership. So far, however, it has taken no concrete steps to do so. EU law and the need to maintain good relations with the US would make challenging German- and American-owned media difficult.
Kaczyński admitted in yesterday’s interview that “we have to take into account European law, but you can also do a lot under this law”. He pointed to the example of the Czech Republic, saying it had reduced German media ownership.
“Every self-respecting country makes sure that the media are in the hands of the citizens of this country or the institutions of that country,” said Kaczyński, noting that in Germany itself there was opposition to an Anglo-American buyout of newspaper Berliner Zeitung.
PiS’s critics, however, argue that such a policy would be intended simply to bring independent media under greater government control, as has happened in Hungary. But Kaczyński denied this, saying “we do not want to control the media”, just to ensure that it is not “in foreign hands”.
Trzaskowski “does not have a Polish heart or soul”
Kaczyński also referred to the issue of Jewish restitution. State broadcaster TVP, which is under the influence of PiS, has repeatedly sought to suggest that, as president, Trzaskowski would “fulfil Jewish demands” by allowing Jewish organisations to “rob” Poland of billions of zloty.
“Only someone without a Polish soul, a Polish heart and a Polish mind could say that…[paying Jewish claims] is a matter for discussion,” said Kaczyński, referring to a comment by the opposition candidate in 2014. “Trzaskowski apparently does not have these.”
Poland was a victim of the war, noted Kaczyński – “invaded, subjected to monstrous occupation, to monstrous crimes”. He added that “many Poles also paid with their lives for saving Jews“.
As long as PiS and Duda remain in power, Poles are guaranteed that “we will not pay anything” to Jews, said Kaczyński, “because [it is] the Germans [who] committed a monstrous crime against the Jews”.
Kaczyński repeated what has been another central theme of Duda’s re-election campaign since Trzaskowski, who as mayor of Warsaw has supported LGBT rights, entered the race.
“The truth is that [Trzaskowski] represents left-wing liberalism, a far-reaching permissivism – [giving] consent to…the LGBT offensive that is introducing educational methods that lead to far-reaching moral corruption [of children] through sexualisation,” warned Kaczyński.
Here Kaczyński returned to a common theme of his rhetoric, describing Poland as an “island of freedom” that must be protected from western ideological trends and political correctness.
We must “defend the state in which we have freedom” from the “vigorous attempts being made – with Trzaskowski at the centre – for various types of minorities to [be able] to terrorise the rest [of society]”, said Kaczyński.
The PiS chairman called upon all those who believe in “traditional values” to support the constitutional ban on adoption by same-sex couples that Duda proposed last week.
“The position of women in Poland stems from Christianity”
Kaczyński highlighted “the important issue of women’s equality”, noting that his party has recently proposed a bill to reduce the gender wage gap by adding pay differentiation based on sex to the legal definition of workplace harassment.
The PiS chairman said, however, that the situation for women in Poland “is better than in other countries”.
This more positive “position of women in Poland than in Western Europe stems from Christianity, because of Mary, [because] in Poland the Marian cult, and especially the role of Mary as queen of Poland, is something that relates directly to the position of every woman”.
If elderly do not vote, there could be “forced euthanasia”
Kaczyński also continued his party’s efforts to increase turnout among the elderly on Sunday. In the first round of the election on 28 June, older voters turned out in lower numbers than usual. The hot weather may have been one factor, but the coronavirus pandemic was seen to be another.
Older voters are much more likely to favour President Duda, who in the first round got 60% of votes among those aged over 60 – compared to his overall result of 43.5%. PiS has sought to reassure them that voting is safe and that the virus is no longer something to worry about.
“Here, I think, we were dealing with the effects of the epidemic and the fears of a certain part of the older generation,” said Kaczyński. “[But] I can assure [you] that participation in these elections is completely safe. There is really nothing to fear.”
Kaczyński warned older citizens that these elections “are important for each of you and for the future of your children and grandchildren”.
President Duda’s opponents represent “a culture…that does not respect human life, not only conceived life, but also does not respect the lives of older people”. The “best proof of this” is “euthanasia, which sometimes takes on a forced character in [parts of] Europe today”.
“If we do not want to go in this direction, let’s go and vote,” said Kaczyński. “Let’s vote for Andrzej Duda, because he is a guarantee that Poland will not go in this direction.”
Main image credit: Radio Maryja/YouTube
Daniel Tilles is editor-in-chief of Notes from Poland and assistant professor of history at the Pedagogical University of Krakow. He has written on Polish affairs for a wide range of publications, including Foreign Policy, POLITICO Europe, The Independent and Dziennik Gazeta Prawna.