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Anger, fear in Poland after re-election of president who said LGBT 'ideology' worse than communism

Some LGBT people in Poland say they are angry and afraid after a weekend election that handed a second term to a conservative president who ran a campaign depicting the LGBT rights movement as an “ideology” worse than communism.

Incumbent President Andrzej Duda flashes a victory sign in Pultusk, Poland. Source: Associated Press

President Andrzej Duda said at one campaign rally that the LGBT rights movement is more dangerous than communism and that "LGBT is not people, it's an ideology."

That triggered street and online protests.

"To me, it was so humiliating. Like in 2020, I have to say I am human? It's horrible," said Mariusz Kurc, the editor of Poland's only LGBT magazine, Replika.

Kurc said he felt anger at what he saw as people's indifference and "pure fear," with his biggest worry being that "we will go the Russian route."

Romana Dybalska, a 37-year-old Warsaw resident in a same-sex relationship, said she found it "sad and frightening" that voters seemingly backed Duda on his statements.

She is now considering following other gay and lesbian Poles who have already left the country.

The election result was dispiriting for liberals in Europe who are keen to halt what they consider the threat of populism and nationalism.

Duda's campaign focused on defending traditional family values in the predominantly Catholic nation of 38 million people, and on preserving social spending policies.

The Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe, which monitored the election, said that “the incumbent’s campaign and coverage by the public broadcaster were marked by homophobic, xenophobic and anti-Semitic rhetoric.”

In towns and cities in the southeast of the country, many so-called 'LGBT-free' zones have popped up, making LGBT people feeling unwanted and unsafe.

Hubert Sobecki, the head of Love Does Not Exclude, an organisation working for marriage equality, said the situation is dire.

"There's always a price for this kind of narrative, and it's not the politicians who are paying the price, it is us," Sobiecki said.

"We have people committing suicide, we have kids being bullied at school and driven to committing suicide, it's been going on for years."

The right-wing ruling party that backs Duda, Law and Justice, seized on LGBT rights last year ahead of parliamentary elections, which it won.

In that campaign, the party leader, Jaroslaw Kaczynski, called LGBT rights "a foreign threat to Poland's national identity."

Influential Roman Catholic bishops also voiced similar messages, calling LGBT people a "rainbow plague."