Soul searching in Poland over mayor's very public murder

Warsaw (AFP) –


Poland was on Tuesday mulling over the prevalence of hate speech in politics a day after Gdansk mayor Pawel Adamowicz died from stab wounds inflicted by an attacker with a political grudge.

Central to the debate is the longstanding hostility between the ruling conservative Law and Justice (PiS) party -- in power since 2015 -- and the centrist opposition Civic Platform (PO).

"Madmen feed on our hate," read a headline in Tuesday's independent daily Dziennik Gazeta Prawna while the liberal Gazeta Wyborcza warned: "Sooner or later, the seeds of hatred bear fruit".

And the centrist Rzeczpospolita daily lamented "the end of the age of innocence".

Footage of the attack posted on YouTube showed the 27-year-old suspect bursting onto the stage and launching himself at the centrist mayor of the Baltic port city at a charity fundraiser on Sunday.

After stabbing the 53-year-old mayor several times, the man seized the microphone and claimed he had been wrongly jailed by the previous PO government and tortured.

"That's why Adamowicz dies," he said.

Several Jewish organisations released a statement Tuesday saying, "Hatred is becoming more and more visible and more widely accepted in Polish political and social life."

Speaking to AFP, political analyst Stanislaw Mocek said that although there was no empirical evidence that such a tense political climate leads to extreme behaviour, "if someone is predisposed to violence, then he can be susceptible."

Back in 2017, the All-Polish Youth, a far-right Catholic group, published "political death certificates" for a string of political figures who had agreed to cooperate on migration -- and Adamowicz was one of them.

On Tuesday, the mayors of Warsaw and the western city of Wroclaw said they would ask schools to speak to students about the possible violent consequences of hate speech.

"Adamowicz's tragic death must mark a turning point" in both political and public discourse, Rzeczpospolita's editor-in-chief Boguslaw Chrabota said