Polish election result seen as a defeat for religious extremism

By staff writers
October 23, 2007

The massive poll win for Poland's liberal-right Civic Platform party, which has ousted Prime Minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski's hardline conservatives in the general election, is a defeat for extreme Catholic nationalism, analysts say.

With 99% of the votes counted, Donald Tusk's pro-European Union opposition party has received more than 41% of the votes, reports the BBC, while Mr Kaczynski's Law and Justice (PiS) party secured about 32%.

The Polish general election was called two years earlier than scheduled after Mr Kaczynski's coalition fell apart over a corruption probe.

Mr Tusk is now expected to hold talks with likely coalition partners later this week.

The result is a defeat for extreme nationalists and some Catholics whose rhetoric has been accused of xenophobia and nationalism.

Last week Poland's Catholic bishops issued a statement in all churches saying that they remained neutral on the matter of voting. 90% of the population are Catholics - with an upsurge in religious commitment having swept the country since the fall of communism, which imposed atheism as an official ideology.

However, the removal of restraints has exposed some hardline views and movements incubated by previous repressive policies.

A focus of concern among moderates has been controversial priest Father Tadeusz Rydzyk, who runs Radio Maryja, its sister TV channel, Trwam, and the newspaper, Nasz Dziennik.

The station has been condemned for anti-Semitism and spreading fear and hatred by civic campaigners, and the Church - itself very far from liberal - has firmly distanced itself from such groups.

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