Secularism makes progress in Polish elections
A new liberal pro-secular political party has surged from nowhere to finish third in Poland’s parliamentary elections held last Sunday, 9 October.
Palikot’s Movement, named after the party’s leader Janusz Palikot, advocates the clear separation of church and state and favours legalizing gay marriage and more liberal abortion laws. It polled 10.2% of the vote. This means that the party will have 40 seats in Poland’s 460-member parliament, including one for Poland’s first transsexual MP and one for its first openly gay MP.
According to a recent report by Associated Press, Palikot said he will seek the removal of a Christian cross that hangs in the assembly hall of the Sejm, Poland’s lower house. He also said he hopes to end laws that make it a crime to insult a person’s religion.
The church is “absolutely too powerful,” Palikot said. “It’s only an illusion that Poland is so extremely Catholic. We want to remove religion from the public spaces.”
Palikot is known in Poland for being one of the more colourful and controversial politicians, famous for his publicity stunts. During a press conference in 2007 Palikot brandished a plastic vibrator and a toy pistol around in order to call attention to a cover-up about a young woman who had been raped at a police station.
Palikot’s support among younger voters is a sign that Polish society, long regarded as deeply conservative and devoutly Roman Catholic, is heading in a more liberal and secular direction.
The centre-right Civic Platform party won enough seats to continue in coalition which means Prime Minister Donald Tusk becomes the first Polish leader to be re-elected since the end of communism.
The Civic Platform took 39% of the vote, against 30% for its conservative challenger, the Law and Justice Party.