Polish President Andrzej Duda, who has called the LGBTQ+ rights movement “more destructive” than Soviet-era communism, appears to have won reelection.
Duda won 51.2 percent of the vote in Sunday’s election, the National Electoral Commission announced Monday, according to the BBC. Supporters of his more liberal opponent, Warsaw Mayor Rafal Trzaskowski, said there were irregularities in voting and indicated they may challenge the result.
Duda’s margin of victory is the smallest of any president since Poland’s communist government fell in 1989, but voter turnout was high — 58.2 percent — giving him “a clear mandate,” the BBC reports. Duda and his Law and Justice Party had particularly strong support in rural areas and among older voters.
Anti-LGBTQ+ sentiment runs strong in the heavily Catholic nation. About 100 towns have declared themselves LGBTQ+-free zones, something condemned by the European Parliament and being challenged in Polish courts. There have been violent attacks on Pride parades in some cities.
In April, Law and Justice introduced a bill in Poland’s Parliament that was labeled the “Stop Pedophilia” bill, as it characterized sex educators as pedophiles; it was particularly aimed at sex ed that included LGBTQ+ topics. “It eventually became buried in parliamentary committees, its propaganda mission complete,” Polish human rights attorney Pawel Knut wrote in a piece published on the NBC News website Monday.
However, Duda is still backing legislation that would ban “homopropaganda” in public spaces as well as a bill that would ban adoption by same-sex couples, LGBTQ+ activist Bartosz Staszewski wrote in The Independent. Duda mentioned these measures frequently during his reelection campaign.
Despite Duda’s victory, “the narrow results of yesterday’s election show at least 50 per cent of voters don’t want to live in a society based on hate,” Staszewski continued. “It’s time to act accordingly.”
Staszewski was encouraged by the activism of young Poles. “The LGBT+ struggle in Poland will continue but we won’t give up,” he wrote. “Last year we saw the largest number of Pride marches across Poland. Young people do not believe in the primitive propaganda of the Law and Justice party. The youth climate strikes, Pride parades and rainbow protests in small and big cities give us hope that young Poles will be the change we desperately need to see.”