Lech Walesa (new)’s controversy

Lech Walesa, former Solidarnosc trade-union leader and Polish president (1990 to 1995)

Lech Walesa, former Solidarnosc trade-union leader and Polish president (1990 to 1995)

Lech Walesa made some surprising, not to say shocking statements, on the last week.

Interviewed by TVN, a Polish private broadcaster, the former Solidarnosc free trade-union founder and Polish president (from 1990 to 1995) considered homosexual representatives should sit in the backbenches of the Sejm (the Polish lower Chamber) and even behind a wall. These declarations provoked the consternation of homosexuals rights associations and some MPs as Janusz Palikot, Ruch Palikota leader, a centrist party pledging in favour of secularism and separation of the Church and the State in a traditionally and blatantly Catholic Poland.

It is not the first time the historic and charismatic Solidarnosc leader, profoundly catholic, has such declarations and/or very controversial opinions. In 2009, for instance, while he supported the Civic Plateform party – the centrist-right party currently at the power in Poland, member of the European People’s Party – for the European elections, he went to the Libertas political movement convention where he delivered a speech on Europe stating Declan Ganley and his sovereign and euro-sceptic party had the potential to change Europe for better. These purposes provoked the polemic in the Walesa’s birth country but also in the rest of the European Union, all the more so as he confessed he had been paid for his presence to the convention.

Lech Walesa enjoys an immense moral authority in Poland due to the major role he has had in the dismantlement of the communist system during the 1980’s via Solidarnosc. The former leader is still a respected and respectable personality who still weighs within the Polish political life and society despites he was constrained to quit politics in 1995 after he was defeated by the ex-communist Aleksander Kwasniewski at the presidential run-off. Indeed, the Walesa’s declarations deeply shocked some conservative as progressive political executives considering it as un-called for and hateful. At his side, Jaroslaw Walesa, former president’s son and current EPP Member of European Parliament, stated the declarations of his father were bad and damaging.

The Walesa’s statements are all the more embarrassing the homosexuality and LGBT rights is still is a taboo in the Frederic Chopin’s land in spite of evolution of mentalities and a more important tolerance in a county where 95% of the population considers itself as catholic. In October 2011, for instance, Robert Biedron, RP member was the first homosexual elected at the Sejm and recently three draft laws defending the creation of a civil union opened to homosexuals were examined by the Parliament then rejected finally.


Jaroslaw Walesa, Member of the European Parliament and member of the European People’s Party

As Jaroslaw Walesa points out, the Lech Walesa’s words are typical of an old generation and a certain Poland profoundly conservative and catholic especially. In fact, if these declarations shocked much Polish citizens, they also were supported by some people concerned by conserving some traditions and some moral principles.


Anti-gay demonstrators walking in the streets of Warsaw

Indeed, the Lech Walesa’s words, if it is condemnable, show a certain malaise vis-à-vis a very respected man considered as the father of the Poland’s second independence and vis-à-vis some societal issues, at the moment the centre-right government of Donald Tusk succeeded to make forget the Kaczynski brothers’ provocations when Lech (as president of the Polish Republic from 2005 to 2010) and Jaroslaw (as Prime minister from 2005 to 2007) were at power. In fact, the Walesa’s shocking words should be the occasion to open debate on some burning and taboo issues as homosexuality and also abortion, which is still forbidden in Poland.