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Concern as controversial rightist party wins Poland’s election

With members’ recent anti-Semitic and racist statements, the Law and Justice party’s crushing victory is ‘big disappointment,’ says Jewish historian

Jaroslaw Kaczynski, leader of the conservative opposition Law and Justice (PiS) speaks at the party's headquarters in Warsaw after exit poll results are announced on October 25, 2015. (AFP/Janek Skarzynski)
Jaroslaw Kaczynski, leader of the conservative opposition Law and Justice (PiS) speaks at the party's headquarters in Warsaw after exit poll results are announced on October 25, 2015. (AFP/Janek Skarzynski)

Poland’s election results are “a big disappointment” to those who seek tolerance in the country, a Polish-born American Jewish historian said Monday, a day after the conservative Law and Justice party won a crushing election victory.

The Polish rightist party has stirred controversy with xenophobic remarks about Muslims and Jews by some of its representatives.

Jaroslaw Kaczynski, the Law and Justice leader, said during the campaign that refugees from the Middle East were bringing diseases like cholera and dysentery to Europe. Many of the refugees are Muslims.

Janusz Kapuscinski, who represents the party on the municipal council of Poznan, earlier this month jokingly proposed to name a street leading to a garbage incinerator as “Auschwitz Street.” His apparent reference to crematoria at the Nazi camp in southern Poland prompted a strong rebuke in the Polish media as well as from the head of the Poznan Jewish community, Alicja Kobus.

Poland took a decisive turn to the right in the parliamentary election Sunday, tossing out the centrist party that had governed for eight years. The Law and Justice party won 39 percent of the vote, enough to govern alone without forming a coalition.

Jan Gross, a Polish-born US Jewish historian and sociologist, said the results were “a big disappointment to those who err on the side of tolerance in Poland,” and “risked entrenching the monolithic tendencies in Polish society, to the detriment of minorities.”

Piotr Kadlcik, a former president of the Union of Jewish Communities in Poland, said he hoped the newly elected ruling party “will not forget the heritage of the late president Lech Kaczynski — a friend of the Jews and Israel,” and a former member of the Law and Justice party.

Kukiz’15, a nationalist party, also made gains in the election — winning 9 percent of the vote — which analysts described as a massive victory for the right-wing bloc.

The ruling pro-European Civic Platform party received 23 percent of the vote.

Jaroslaw Kaczynski promised his party would govern fairly.

“We will exert law but there will be no taking of revenge. There will be no squaring of personal accounts,” he said. “There will be no kicking of those who have fallen of their own fault and very rightly so.”

Conservative Law and Justice leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski and Justice candidate for the Prime Minister Beata Szydlo, left, deliver speeches at the party's headquarters in Warsaw, Poland, on Sunday, Oct. 25, 2015. The victory of Kaczynski's Eurosceptic party ends eight years in power of the pro-EU, pro-business Civic Platform which voters accuse of being conformist, detached and focused on power rather than on improving living standards in Poland.(AP Photo/Czarek Sokolowski)
Conservative Law and Justice leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski and Justice candidate for the prime minister Beata Szydlo (left), deliver speeches at the party’s headquarters in Warsaw, Poland, on October 25, 2015. (AP/Czarek Sokolowski)

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