Poland's leader sworn in for 2nd term as critics stay away

Poland’s conservative President Andrzej Duda has been sworn in for a second five-year term before parliament members

WARSAW, Poland -- Poland’s conservative President Andrzej Duda was sworn in for a second five-year term Thursday, but many opposition lawmakers and former presidents and prime ministers broke with tradition and stayed away from the ceremony.

The political figures missing as Duda took the oath of office — including predecessors Lech Walesa and Bronislaw Komorowski — signaled disapproval of what they see as Duda’s disregard for the Polish Constitution and near-total acceptance of the right-wing ruling party’s policies during his first term.

Many of the Law and Justice party's policies have put Poland at odds with the European Union, which is concerned that government efforts to reshape the judiciary and other actions have eroded the rule of law and democracy in the EU member country.

“The man who for five years violated and trampled the Constitution is now being sworn on it and is vowing to respect it, it's just a cheap show,” said one of those absent, Barbara Nowacka, deputy leader of the opposition Civic Platform party.

Another member of the party, Klaudia Jachira, held a banner at the ceremony reading “Perjurer.”

The government — and Duda — remain popular with many Poles after introducing welfare payments and focusing on national pride. Seeking to put a bitter election campaign behind him, the 48-year-old president vowed at his swearing-in ceremony to maintain openness to all groups and political parties.

But he also stressed the role of the family in Polish society and the need to protect it. The comments echoed one of his key campaign messages, which depicted LGBT rights as a threat to Polish families.

“The key things are family, security, work, investment and dignity,” Duda said.

Family, he said, is “the highest good, and we must do everything to protect family and care for its development."

Left-wing lawmakers wore brightly colored clothes that evoked the rainbow and some wore rainbow masks to protest what they consider to be the homophobia of Duda and other conservative leaders. Some held up copies of the constitution to signal their belief that the president has violated the country's legal protections.

Parliament Speaker Elzbieta Witek swore in Duda, who took his oath of office with his wife by his side. Polish presidents can only serve two terms.

Duda told the chamber that “every person is owed respect” and that the government in power since 2015 does “not make a division between better or worse Poles because of their earnings, their level of education, their views or their religion.”

On international matters, he stressed the need to focus on economic development in central and eastern Europe and the value of close cooperation with NATO and the United States on security issues.

Nowacka, of the opposition, said it was “hard to believe” Duda's words and stressed he was “not the president of all Poles.”

Duda won 51% of the vote in a July 12 runoff against liberal Warsaw Mayor Rafal Trzaskowski, who received 49%. Almost 65% of eligible voters cast ballots in the nation of 38 million.

Duda said the high turnout was a sign that democracy in Poland was in good shape.

Trzaskowski did not attend the ceremony Thursday.

The inauguration on Thursday included other events, including a Mass at Warsaw's cathedral and a ceremony in which the president, who is Poland's commander in chief, had his authority over the armed forces renewed.