Controversial Catholic Radio Maryja enters politics

A new grouping may enter Poland’s political scene with hopes of providing a strong stimulus for right oriented parties prior to early parliamentary elections. It is attached, and strongly promoted by the controversial Roman Catholic station Radio Maryja, which has a considerable following in Poland, but whose nationalist and anti-European rhetoric upsets many. Former president Lech Walesa recently decsibed Radio Maryja as a 'sect'. Sławek Szefs looks at the aims and chances of the Patriotic Movement, Radio Maryja's new baby.

In launching the Patriotic Movement right wing politician Antoni Macierewicz and his political allies have used the support of people rallied around the ultra conservative Radio Maryja and its director Father Tadeusz Rydzyk, whose insubordination has become a serious problem even for the top hierarchy of Poland’s Catholic Church. Commentators are baffled by the scale of the station's involvement in politics. Oskar Chomicki from the Poland in Europe Foundation thinks it is not a good idea to involve the Church, or at least some of the prominent clergymen, into such a purely political undertaking as the building of a new party.

Antoni Macierewicz says that Father Rydzyk – the director of Radio Maryja – is NOT involved in the party’s formation, but “We admire his enormous work and great talent, as well as impressive attainments, but Father Rydzyk is not behind this initiative, nor are any other clergymen. However, we ARE counting on all patriotically minded Poles…… and that includes all clergymen!”

Antoni Macierewicz explains the aim of the Patriotic movement is to unite the increasingly popular Catholic Wright ahead of the general elections in Poland, due within months. “This is a response to a great challenge we all feel in Poland with reference to unfulfilled hopes and expectations which had been awakened 15 years ago. The Round Table agreements leading to the fall of communism are obviously not binding anymore.”

The Patriotic Movement is to follow the ideals of Solidarity, which undermined the foundations of communism in Poland a quarter of a century ago and led the nation to its dismantling in 1989. The Movement is to base its policy on opposition to European unification and pro-Western economic reforms which it considers harmful to this country’s sovereignty and development. One of its goals would be to counter the ratification of the European Constitution by Poland.

What about the Catholic rooted League of Polish Families - LPR, or the Law & Justice party which have been gaining importance over the past months with their populist slogans addressed to the over 3 million army of unemployed, or the wide public disenchanted with leftist rule marred by corruption scandals in abundance? LPR leader Roman Giertych sees the Patriotic Movement as no competition for his party. “If they succeed in taking away some 0.4 to 0.6 percent, it will be rather from the Law & Justice party, because the views of Patriotic Movement politicians Olszewski and Macierewicz are more convergent with theirs.”

But, Antoni Macierewicz remains confident that the new Patriotic Movement stands a good chance of playing a crucial, unifying role for the Catholic rooted right hinting that the parties involved might even present a joint candidate in the upcoming presidential campaign. No names have been suggested yet, but when they are listed, they will surely be first presented by Radio Maryja.