December 2023 Church & State Magazine - December 2023

Nationalist party dealt a setback in Polish parliamentary elections


A nationalist party that combines populism, anti-abortion policies and anti-LGBTQ+ sentiment may be losing its grip on Poland.

Equality for all: Poles rally for LGBTQ+ rights in Warsaw (Photo by Omar Marques/Getty Images)

The Law and Justice Party has ruled Poland since 2015, but in October, voters failed to give the political unit a clear mandate to stay in power. The party, known as PiS in Poland, captured about 35% of the vote, not enough to form a government under the country’s parliamentary system. Instead, the country might be led by the Civic Coalition, the main opposition party, aligned with a center-right party called Third Way and Lewica, a left-wing party.

PiS came to power in part by attacking LGBTQ+ people. Inspired by the party’s rhetoric, more than 100 communities in Poland have adopted symbolic resolutions declaring themselves free from “LGBTQ ideology.” Members of the LGBTQ+ community have reported a sharp uptick in physical assaults.

The party also placed further curbs on abortion, even though Poland already had extremely restrictive abortion policies. 

In the wake of the Oct. 15 election, PiS leaders continued to vilify LGBTQ+ people. Party legislator Ryszard Terlecki asserted that a “rainbow flood” would engulf the nation if PiS is removed from power, reported The New York Times.

Analysts who followed the election say young voters, especially women, were crucial to the outcome. Patrice McMahon, a professor of political science at the University of Nebraska—Lincoln, wrote on The Conversation, a website that features the work of academic experts, that for the first time in Poland’s history, more women than men voted.

“Government restrictions and ongoing attacks on women’s organizations were having an impact on Polish women, especially younger women — and the October election provided a moment for women to have their say,” McMahon wrote. “A breakdown of the women’s vote finds that many women voted for leftist and centrist parties that made women’s rights and liberalized abortion laws a priority.”

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