- Hope at last as Rafał Trzaskowski takes on President Andrzey Duda, supported by the anti-LGBT+ Law and Justice Party.
A former child actor and LGBT+ ally has emerged as the best chance to beat Poland’s anti-LGBT+ Law and Justice party’s choice in the country’s presidential election.
Previously sitting President Andrzej Duda, technically an independent but actually the Polish Law and Justice Party (PiS) candidate, seemed sure to win.
But Rafał Trzaskowski, mayor of Poland’s capital Warsaw and a liberal, has entered the race in its closing stages. And the polls indicate he could still beat Duda.
Trzaskowski is representing the Civic Platform, a centrist, pro-EU party. As well as being a passionate pro-European, he is also an outspoken LGBT+ ally.
Many Polish liberals think the presidential election is the last chance to stop the anti-LGBT+ and Eurosceptic PiS party defining Poland’s future.
How Trzaskowski tried to deliver a ‘Warsaw for everyone’
Trzaskowski first came to fame as an 8-year-old on 1980s Polish children’s TV series Our Backyard.
As a 17-year-old he was a young activist helping the Solidarity movement organize Poland’s first partly free election in 1989 after communist rule.
He has served in the European Parliament, as a lawmaker in Poland’s parliament and as a Minister of Administration and Digitization.
Then, in 2018, Trzaskowski became the mayor of Warsaw.
In February 2019 he launched a 12 point LGBT+ Declaration for the city. The document set out how the city can give the community some of the rights and protections that Poland fails to offer.
At the time Trzaskowski said: ‘In my election campaign, I promised Warsaw for everyone.
‘Warsaw is a city for everyone that does not discriminate against anyone. Warsaw for everyone is a place where everyone feels safe and absolutely everyone can count on support regardless of sex, color, religion, origin, sexual orientation or views.’
He also rode on a float in Warsaw’s annual LGBT+ Pride parade.
However, the declaration generated a backlash.
The Law and Justice Party made LGBT+ issues a key battleground during the 2019 general elections for the Sjem, Poland’s parliament.
Moreover, multiple cities and districts started to declare themselves as ‘LGBT-Free Zones’.
Now 100 municipalities and five voivodships or provinces, the largest administrative unit in Poland, had declared themselves LGBT Free Zones. Together they cover a third of the country and make up an area around the size of Hungary.
Moreover, the PiS has continued its homophobic agenda. The parliament is currently considering an anti-LGBT+ Stop Pedophilia bill that could destroy sex education in the country.
‘Huge wave of change’
Trzaskowski, aged 48, replaced the Civic Platform’s original candidate Malgorzata Kidawa-Blonska, on 15 May.
She had been polling in the low single digits. But Trzaskowski surged to 25% to 27% in polls at the end of May.
The election was due to take place on 6 May. However the coronavirus pandemic delayed it.
Poland is yet to set a new date for the vote, although 28 June seems likely.
At the moment, Duda looks set to secure between 36% and 41% in the first round, making him the frontrunner.
However, if a candidate does not secure 50%, the election goes to a second round of voting between the top two candidates. Trzaskowski is now the most likely challenger to Duda in that run-off competition out of a total field of 10 candidates.
Moreover, at that stage, Duda’s lead could slip significantly. The latest polls indicate Trzaskowski and Duda are virtually level in a second round, with around 45% of the vote each and 10% of Poles undecided.
While some put Duda ahead and he probably has a narrow lead, other polls have even shown Trzaskowski beating him.
The process needs to end by 6 August when Duda’s first five year term ends. Polish presidents are entitled to up to two terms in office.
The Polish president can propose laws and veto laws passed in parliament.
However Duda has mostly signed off on PiS legislation. By contrast, Trzaskowski has promised his win would launch a ‘huge wave of change’.