The leader of Poland’s governing party could be taken to court after apparently branding people opposed to his policies as traitors and the “worst sort of Poles”.
Thousands have already signed a petition to take out a collective lawsuit against Jaroslaw Kaczynski, president of Poland’s Law and Justice party, for comments they claim infringed on their personal rights.
Well-known for having a prickly persona, Mr Kaczynski lashed out at the thousands of people who attended an anti-government demonstration on Saturday. Not mincing his words, he said during a television interview: “It’s as if some people had it in their genes, the worst sort of Poles, who are now most active as they are sensing a threat.”
Mr Kaczynski added they followed a “horrid tradition of national treason”.
His comments riled many in Poland and added further fuel to critics of a Law and Justice government already caught in a storm of controversy over its plans to reform the country’s supreme court, a move that opponents have damned as unconstitutional.
Although Mr Kaczynski has no formal role in the government that took office only last month, as party president he is often regarded as the power behind the throne and the dominant force within the Law and Justice ranks.
In their complaint, the organisers of the petition claimed for somebody in a position of power to make such comments was unacceptable.
“Such a statement from somebody with their hands on the reins of power is not only unacceptable but also dangerous,” read the official complaint. “With these words Mr Kaczynski violated our personal dignity and shook our sense of security in a country that we love.”
It also added that “history reminds us that ‘the worst sort’ of people have been subject to extermination and discrimination”.
Mr Kaczynski’s position has made him the target of fierce criticism but so far he has remained defiant over his comments.
Adding petrol to the fire, the Law and Justice leader later appeared to compare his critics to collaborators with the Gestapo, the feared Nazi secret police responsible for the deaths of countless thousands of Poles, when asked by a television reporter if he intended to apologise.
The Gestapo comment increased the volume and intensity of calls for an apology.
“This is the Mr Kaczynski we’ve known for years. Using language to divide Poles into the good and the bad,” said Ewa Kopacz, a leader of the opposition Civic Platform party and, until early November, prime minister.
“I appeal to Mr Kaczynski to apologise for him words. There are some boundaries that should not be crossed” she continued, adding he had insulted millions of Poles.
The controversy over the “worst sort of Poles” comments has drawn comparisons in Poland with Mr Kaczynski’s brief stint as prime minister from 2006 to 2007.
Although to his supporters he presided over a government determined to root out entrenched networks of corruption apparently existing in the country since the demise of communism, his critics accused him of applying a divisive approach to politics in which anyone who was opposed to him was “untrustworthy” and “perhaps did not have Poland’s interests at heart”.