A new conservative and homophobic pillar seems to be solidifying its bases in the heart of Europe, after Poland’s President Andrzej Duda was re-elected by a narrow margin in last Sunday’s elections. According to the BBC, Duda narrowly defeated his opponent Rafal Trzaskowski with 51.2 percent of the vote, making it Poland’s narrowest victory in the presidential elections since the end of communism in 1989.
With all the geographical and political distances that may exist between the United States and Poland, last Sunday’s election is a distant warning of what could happen in the American elections in November.
After all, President Duda has established close ties with President Donald Trump since he welcomed him to Warsaw in 2017. He received a boost from the U.S. president last month when he became the first foreign leader to visit the White House after months of coronavirus blockade. And on Monday evening, Trump tweeted his congratulations to Duda for his “historic re-election.”
It is indeed historic, considering Duda’s divisive brand of politics helped to fuel the rise of “LGBT-free zones” in the nation during his first term. “He’s thinking about us as a tool to reach his political goals,” said gay rights activist Bart Staszewski in a documentary published in The Guardian last week. Another subject in the documentary described Poland as “the most homophobic country in the E.U.”
Similarly, both Trump and Duda leaders have used their countries’ conservative and rural bases to pursue isolationist agendas, against international cooperation and against progressive and liberal movements.
A closer look at President Duda’s leadership
More than an election, Sunday’s vote was a symptom of the deep ideological division the country is experiencing. Duda is a social conservative ally of the government led by the nationalist Law and Justice (PiS) party, while Trzaskowski is the social liberal mayor of Warsaw. According to ABC News, Trzaskowski’s decision to sign a tolerance declaration last year triggered a backlash against gay rights that may have helped to buoy Duda’s campaign of hate and fear.
For Duda, in particular, it is all about ideologies.
During his re-election campaign, Duda mobilized his more conservative, largely rural base, echoing traditional Catholic values, including legislation against the rights of the LGBTQ+ community, which he described as an “ideology worse than Soviet-era communism,” as reported by CNN.
“The government’s radical reforms to the courts and stance on LGBTQ issues, supported by Duda, have already put Poland on a collision course with the European Union,” the media added. “But with Duda in the presidency for another term, the PiS — led by Jaroslaw Kaczynski — is likely to continue on the same path.”
Critics and human rights groups expressed concerns that Duda’s victory would boost illiberal tendencies not only at home but also within the European Union, which has struggled to halt an erosion of rule of law in Hungary under Prime Minister Viktor Orban — another far-right leader who has won praise from Trump for his “controversial” brand of politics. The two also share a similar hostility to the media. And like Trump, Orban has nothing but congratulations for President Duda on his re-election.
Orban on Monday posted a picture of himself on Facebook shaking hands with Duda in the Hungarian parliament with “Bravo!” and graphics of a hand showing a “V” for victory and a Polish flag.