© AP Photo/Czarek Sokolowski
In this Feb. 19, 2020 file photo, Poland's President Andrzej Duda campaigns for his re-election in Warsaw, Poland.
Polish President Andrzej Duda accused on Saturday the LGBT movement of advancing ideas that are more harmful than communism and said he agreed with another conservative politician who stated that "LGBT is not people, it's an ideology."

Duda's remarks came from the small southwestern town of Brzeg as he was holding a rally for his presidential re-election.

Gay rights is emerging as a key campaign theme in the presidential election as the race grows close between Duda, backed by the nationalist conservative ruling party Law and Justice, and Warsaw Mayor Rafal Trzaskowski, who has called for tolerance for gay and lesbian people.

Duda, who is 48, told his supporters that his parents' generation did not struggle to cast off communism only to now accept "an ideology" that he thinks "is even more destructive to the human being."

The president said that during Poland's communist era, which lasted for more than four decades, regimes ensured survival by indoctrinating the youngest generation.

"That was Bolshevism. It was the ideologizing of children," he said.

"Today, there are also attempts to push an ideology on us and our children, but different. It's totally new, but it is also neo-Bolshevism."

Earlier in the week, Duda signed a declaration drafted for the stated purpose of helping families that included language on "protecting children from LGBT ideology" with a ban on "propagating LGBT ideology in public institutions."

Many conservative politicians in Poland say they are not against gay men and lesbians as individuals, but insist they oppose the goals of a civil rights movement that they claim is imported from abroad and threatens to sexualize young people.

But gay and lesbian Poles and liberal Poles say government officials are adopting a language of dehumanization. They believe Duda and others are targeting homosexuals to curry favour with the Catholic church and shore up support among conservative voters ahead of the election.

The election is scheduled for June 28, with a second-round featuring the two top candidates on July 12, if none of the contenders wins at least 50% outright.

While there are now 10 candidates in the race, polls predict a runoff between Duda and Trzaskowski, who belongs to the centrist and pro-European Union Civic Platform party.

In recent days, a string of prominent conservative politicians have spoken out about "LGBT ideology." The deputy head of the governing party, Joachim Brudzinski, wrote Thursday on Twitter that "Poland without LGBT is most beautiful." His tweet included an image of Jesus and eggs in a bird nest — a bird family "realizing God's plan," he said.

Asked about the tweet at a Friday rally, presidential challenger Trzaskowski said: "If you use the words 'Poland without someone' — and it doesn't matter who — that is dividing Poles, and we have had enough of dividing Poles."

"I think anyone who uses this kind of language will pay a political price," Trzaskowski said.

Another conservative lawmaker got kicked off air in the middle of a Friday interview with private broadcaster TVN for saying "LGBT is not people, it's an ideology."