We don’t just follow stories, we follow up. In October 2019 Coda Story reported on how Poland’s conservative media fired up anti-LGBTQ propaganda to galvanize voters ahead of parliamentary elections. Now Poland is preparing for another key election, this time for president. Here’s how anti-LGBTQ narratives are again being weaponized as voters prepare to head to the polls.

With Poland facing recession and a fresh spike in Covid-19 cases, President Andrzej Duda has embraced a hard-line, anti-LGBTQ agenda in his campaign for re-election on June 28. The president signed a “family charter” on June 10, pledging to protect and defend the “traditional family” from “LGBT ideology.” Duda published the series of pledges and included a promise to prohibit the spread of “LGBT ideology” in schools.

Last fall, conservative media outlets with direct connections to Duda’s Law and Justice political party ran a full-fledged disinformation campaign against the country’s LGBTQ community. But Duda has previously kept his anti-LGBTQ rhetoric more toned down. Recent poll numbers show the incumbent president may need an extra edge to push ahead.

“He’s nervous, his people are nervous. His campaign has slowed down,” said Hubert Sobecki, the co-president of the LGBTQ rights organization, Love Does Not Exclude. “It’s easy and it’s effective to show an internal threat.”

The upcoming presidential election has been cast as a referendum on LGBTQ rights by both the conservative Law and Justice party and the main opposition candidate, Warsaw Mayor Rafal Trzaskowski. 

The chairman of Law and Justice’s executive committee, Krysztof Sobolewsi, told voters so explicitly during an interview on Polskie Radio. “We will have a choice between the white-and-red Poland represented by the current president and a rainbow Poland” of Trzaskowski, he said.

In a show of strength, Mayor Trzaskowski gathered 1.6 million signatures in just five days in order to register as candidate for president, far more than the 100,000 required by law. Polls indicate that there will likely be a runoff election in July between Duda and the mayor.

Homophobia is far from a new theme in Catholic and conservative Poland; however, during the elections last fall LGBTQ rights became the central campaign issue. 

“This kind of narrative had been gone from Polish public discourse for years and then it suddenly re-emerged last year,” explained Sobecki of the Love Does Not Exclude organization.