Poland’s homophobic and ultra-nationalist ruling party cling to power, early vote shows

Urine, rocks, firecrackers and eggs have all been thrown by anti-Pride protesters this year at Poland’s LGBT+ community, all while the country’s ruling party dubbed queer people a “threat”.

And it seems that the openly homophobic party is on track to hold onto power, exit polls show.

The Law and Justice Party is expected to be swept into power once again by swaying voters – with turnout being at its highest since records began – with a campaign of aggrieved nationalism and anti-LGBT sentiment.

As the exit polls were released, party chairman Jaroslaw Kaczyński, who once told Polish people to resist the “travelling theatre” of Pride, yesterday told reporters: “We have reasons to be happy.

“The good change,” he said, “will continue.”

Exit polls: Law and Justice Party on track to secure a majority. 

Voters headed to the polls in record numbers with more than 61 percent taking part – the highest turnout since the first, partly-free election of 1989 in Poland.

The PiS are on track to secure a mandate with 43.6% of the vote, which if correct, would score the party 239 out of 460 seats in the Polish Sejm. The party have deep ties with the country’s influential Catholic Church.

Leader of the PiS ruling party Jaroslaw Kaczynski speaks at the election night after first results showed his party won the elections with almost 43% support. (JP Black/LightRocket via Getty Images)

Leader of the PiS ruling party Jaroslaw Kaczynski speaks at the election night after first results showed his party won the elections with almost 43% support. (JP Black/LightRocket via Getty Images)

The opposition Civic Coalition, a liberal centre-right grouping, was predicted to receive 24.1%, or roughly 130 seats. Squashing hopes from liberal lawmakers to swing power through coalition, exit polls conducted by research centre Ipsos show.

While snap election polls results are not always reliable, if the results prove to be accurate, a party with a severely homophobic record will continue to be in power for a further four years. Plunging the community in unease about what direction their rights and safety will go.

What will this mean for Poland’s LGBT+ people?

In the last four years since the party was elected to power in 2015, activists and critics have argued that the PiS have fermented hate.

Multiple Prides in Poland this year – with many of then being the town’s first ever – were descended upon by hundreds of protesters.

Several towns and villages have declared themselves as “LGBT-free” while religious leaders have called the community a “rainbow plague”.

An elderly man walks past riot police officers and a water canon protecting participants taking part in the Gay Pride parade in Lublin, eastern Poland, on September 28, 2019. (WOJTEK RADWANSKI/AFP/Getty Images)

Moreover, for a time, a government-aligned newspaper Gazeta Polska distributed anti-LGBT stickers before the courts ruled it was illegal.

And critics argue that Kaczyński’s re-election campaign has only added fuel to the fire.

PiS leader: LGBT+ people are ‘real threat to Polish state’.

By placing LGBT+ rights in the centre of public debates and depicting them as a dangerous Western idea that undermines traditional Catholic values, the leader described his party as fighting in an “ideological war”.

Meanwhile, the southern city of Lublin recently gave awards to local officials who have opposed: “LGBT ideology, which goes against the family, the nation and the Polish state”, according to local media.

While Polish policy-makers have been sluggish to enshrine LGBT+ people with rights, activists have pressed them to enact change.

Tireless campaigners have proved successful in the past by pushing parliament to introduce positive measures, such as enabling gay men to donate blood.

However, marriage equality, legal protections in the area of gender identity and adoption remain far off in the distance.

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