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The Warsaw Voice » Politics » July 30, 2008
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New Children's Ombudsman Named
July 30, 2008   
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The lower house of Poland's parliament, the Sejm, July 23 approved Marek Michalak as the country's new spokesman for children's rights.

Supported by the ruling coalition of the Civic Platform (PO) and the Polish People's Party (PSL), Michalak received 237 votes, beating the Law and Justice's (PiS) contender Leszek Dobrzyński, who won 144 votes, and the Democratic Left Alliance's (SLD) Katarzyna Piekarska, who garnered 41 votes.

Born in 1971, Michalak holds a master's degree in social rehabilitation and has completed postgraduate courses in "sociotherapy" and the organization of welfare work. He has been a member of organizations working for the benefit of children and young people since 1987. In 1994 he received the Order of the Smile, an award granted to adults on behalf of children. He has been a member of the International Chapter of the Order of the Smile since 1996, and the organization's head since 2007.

The previous children's ombudsman, Ewa Sowińska, resigned at the end of June. Sowińska, appointed under the previous governing coalition of PiS, Samoobrona and the League of Polish Families (LPR), was often accused of doing a poor job in defending children's rights. She also made a number of controversial statements while on the job. In one such statement, she said psychologists should investigate whether the popular BBC TV show Teletubbies promotes a homosexual lifestyle and whether it is suitable for broadcasting on Polish public television.

Before the house vote, some deputies made emotional statements. PiS's Tadeusz Cymański appealed to the future spokesman for children's rights not to divide politicians over issues such as abortion but to focus on combating social ills such as alcoholism in families. His party colleague Anna Sobecka, a deputy linked to the radical Catholic station Radio Maryja, demanded that the future commissioner support a motion on an absolute moratorium on abortion. SLD deputy Joanna Senyszyn in turn wanted to know the candidates' stance on in-vitro fertilization, a procedure that she said "makes people happy."
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