Janusz Palikot; photo - PAP/Bartłomiej Zborowski
Jaroslaw Kaczynski, the leader of the conservative opposition Law and Justice (PiS) has declared his party's plans to defend a cross that hangs in Poland's lower house of parliament after the newly elected liberal Palikot Movement announced its aim to have the symbol removed.
“There is no reason for the cross to be removed, just because a group of people with crazy beliefs wishes for it to be so,” Kaczynski said.
The bid to remove the cross, which was declared on Wednesday by Janusz Palikot, leader of the Palikot Movement, came just three days after the general election, in which his anti-clerical, liberal party won a surprise ten percent of the vote.
A spokesman for the christian-democrat Civic Platform party, which won the largest number of seats in parliament on Sunday, has said however that the cross was not just a religious but “national symbol” in Poland and there were no plans to have it taken down.
“First of all, the cross is not a national symbol,” Palikot said, adding that he is submitting a request to the Speaker of the Lower House of Parliament for the removal of the symbol.
Although he claimed that his party “fully respects the religious character of the cross,” Palikot argued that “it should not be dragged into party and political struggles, and it should not hang in parliament or many other public institutions.”
Palikot said that he would take the matter to Poland's Constitutional Tribunal, if the Speaker of the Lower House did not take on board his party's requests. Failing that, he said that he would turn to the Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg.
The ultra-conservative newspaper Nasz Dziennik, which supported Law and Justice in the elections, writes that “Palikot was going to war”.
Palikot, in turn, accused Kaczynski of trying to create “another scene” about the cross, echoing the aftermath of the Smolensk air tragedy of April 2010.
Kaczynski's party defended a wooden cross that was placed outside the Presidential Palace following the 2010 tragedy. His twin brother, President Lech Kaczynski, was killed alongside 95 others in the crash.
The site became a point of pilgrimage, but when, several weeks later, the government attempted to clear the scene, citing security concerns, a bitter stand-off ensued that divided the Polish public. (pg/nh)