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Poland's Kaczynski condemns gay pride marches as election nears

STALOWA WOLA, Poland (Reuters) - Poland must resist the “traveling theater” of gay pride marches, the leader of its conservative ruling party said on Sunday, as the staunchly Roman Catholic country gears up for a parliamentary election on Oct. 13.

FILE PHOTO: Poland's Law and Justice (PiS) leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski speaks during a party convention ahead of the EU election, in Krakow, Poland May 19, 2019. REUTERS/Kacper Pempel/File Photo

Poland’s ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party has used LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender) rights as a key campaign issue, depicting them as a dangerous Western idea that undermines traditional Catholic values.

“The hard offensive, this traveling theater that is showing up in different cities to provoke and then cry... we are the ones who are harmed by this, it must be unmasked and discarded,” PiS leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski said at a party campaign picnic in the town of Stalowa Wola.

The law must be fully enforced to “regulate these matters”, he added, without elaborating.

Kaczynski also said he was “grateful” to a Polish archbishop who said this month that Poland was under siege from a “rainbow plague” of gay rights campaigners whom he compared to Poland’s former Communist rulers.

Only PiS can defend the Catholic Church and ward off threats to the traditional family coming from the West, he said.

“(We must) live in freedom, and not be subject to all that is happening to the west of our borders... where freedom is being eliminated,” Kaczynski added.

Political analysts say PiS’ criticism of LGBT rights could be a strategy to rally its conservative rural base for the election. It is leading in opinion polls and is expected to win a fresh four-year mandate.

Critics say PiS has fomented violence toward the gay community in recent weeks as it has continued to criticize what it calls “LGBT ideology”.

A “gay pride” march in the northeastern city of Bialystok was marred by violence in July as counter-protesters chased down, attacked and yelled at participants.

Police provided heavy protection to a similar march this month in the central city of Plock.

Reporting by Alicja Ptak; Writing by Joanna Plucinska; Editing by Gareth Jones