Wednesday

22nd May 2019

Poland: Election talk on migrant 'protozoas' gets ugly

  • Kaczynski (l) with Szydlo: Speculation party leader wants PM post for himself (Photo: pis.org.pl)

The man who could be Poland’s next PM has said refugees could bring “cholera” and “parasites” to Europe, prompting accusations of “Nazi”-type rhetoric.

Jaroslaw Kaczynski, Poland’s former leader and the head of the right-wing Law and Justice party, made the controversial remarks at a rally in Makow Mazowiecki, a town north of Warsaw, on Monday (12 October).

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“We have to find out if information about some kind of [EU] deal to bring 100,000 Muslims to Poland is true”, he said, Polish media report.

“It’s also a question for the health minister", he added.

“There are already signs of the emergence of very dangerous diseases which haven’t been seen in Europe for a long time: cholera on Greek islands; dysentery in Vienna; various types of parasites, protozoas, which aren’t dangerous in the organisms of these people [Middle East refugees], but which could be dangerous here. It doesn’t mean to discriminate against anyone. But we have to check it”.

The statement prompted a stinging reaction by Andrzej Celinski, the head of Poland's liberal Democratic Party.

He told the TVN24 broadcaster on Tuesday that Kaczynski is “no longer just using the language of hate, but language which is emblematic of the Holocaust”.

“It used to be said that Jewish women carry typhus. Scaremongering about parasites is the language of Nazism. Kaczynski must know this. He’s not an idiot”.

The Law and Justice party, according to the latest poll, by TNS Poland for TVN24, will win the election, on 25 October, with 36 percent.

The incumbent centre-right party, Civic Platform, previously led by EU Council president Donald Tusk, is on 24 percent.

The Kukiz15 group, which is running on an electoral reform ticket, looks like the only other party to pass the 5 percent threshold to enter parliament.

The pro-Russia and anti-EU Korwin party, which says refugees will impose sharia law in Warsaw, is fading out of sight.

The numbers have prompted speculation on a potential Law and Justice-Kukiz15 coalition.

Kaczynski’s big role in the campaign has also prompted thinking he might take the PM post from his party's official candidate - Beata Szydlo - if they win an outright majority.

“At one point their candidate for PM was Piotr Glinski. Now we have Ms Szydlo. In 2005, Jaroslaw Kaczynski said he won’t be PM, but life showed otherwise”, Ewa Kopacz, the Civic Platform prime minister, told the Gazeta Wyborcza daily, referring to Kaczynski's brief time as Polish leader in 2006 and 2007.

There is no EU deal for Poland to take in "100,000 Muslims", as Kaczynski indicated.

But Kopacz, who initially criticised EU refugee quotas, then made a U-turn to accept 11,946 people, is being forced to defend her policy.

“We can’t afford to take in economic migrants. But we have to show solidarity with people who are looking for a safe place to live”, she said.

Michal Kaminski, a Civic Platform MEP, said Kaczynski is trying to present Law and Justice as a centrist party, but in reality he has a “radical vision”.

“I’m afraid of that vision”, he said. “I’m afraid that Poland [under Kaczynski] would turn away from Europe. I’m afraid of a war of ideas in Poland”.

Polish society is 87.5 percent Roman Catholic, according to a 2011 census.

The ugly nature of the migrant debate was also on show in rallies in Warsaw and Gdansk in mid-September.

A pro-refugee event at Warsaw University attracted some 1,000 people.

But a rival protest in the city centre was five times bigger, with people chanting “Fuck the EU” and with one protester calling Muslim refugees a “Trojan pig”. The Gdansk rally saw people chant: “We will do to you [refugees] what Hitler did to the Jews”, The Economist, a British weekly reported.

Law and Justice already unseated the Civic Platform's candidate in presidential elections in May.

Poland's new head of state, Andrzej Duda, last month, also attacked the EU relocation scheme.

“I won’t agree to a dictate of the strong,” he said at a seminar in Krynica, southern Poland.

“I won’t back a Europe where the economic advantage of the size of a population will be a reason to force solutions [relocations] on other countries regardless of their national interests”.

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