Controversial Polish priest wields influence in federal election

.- A Catholic priest, who runs several Catholic media outlets, is believed to wield enough influence among the people to greatly impact the upcoming federal elections.

The coalition led by Prime Minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski and his twin brother, President Lech Kaczynski, fell apart last month and an election campaign has begun.

However, in addition to the candidates, political analysts and pundits are keeping their eye on Fr. Tadusz Rydzyk, who has reportedly become a crucial political ally of the conservative Kaczynski twins and has much influence among voters.

Fr. Rydzyk runs the Radio Maryja Catholic media network, which has up to two million listeners, made up of mostly older, dedicated voters.

However, concerns about Fr. Rydzyk run high. He has been accused of making xenophobic and anti-Semitic comments on his radio program and he claims that his power comes from a higher authority.

Radio Maryja is run from a fenced compound in the city of Torun, 75 miles northwest of Warsaw. The priest founded it in 1991. He also runs a newspaper and a television channel.

Jacek Kucharczyk from the Polish Institute of Public Affairs said the Kaczynskis won the last election with just 3.5 million votes. Given the low voter turnout rate, a voting block of one million voters is huge. “It has made Rydzyk a king-maker," said Kucharczyk.

Kucharczyk said Fr. Rydzyk’s large audience base has allowed him to impose Radio Maryja's agenda on national politics in Poland. This agenda, claims Kucharczyk, is “xenophobic, notoriously anti-Semitic, anti-German, homophobic.”

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