WARSAW (Reuters) – Polish lawmakers on Thursday passed a resolution to hold a referendum on the same day as parliamentary elections on Oct. 15, finalising the questions that will be put before voters in what some analysts say is a government bid to mobilise its base.
Ruling nationalists Law and Justice (PiS) say the referendum aims to make sure the will of the people is respected on four issues: the privatisation of state companies, raising the retirement age, a fence on the Belarus border, and accepting migrants under a European Union deal.
However, the opposition says that PiS is misusing public funds for a campaign exercise that is designed to energise its supporters and demonise opponents with a series of loaded questions.
“The questions asked there are crucial for the security of our compatriots and our country,” government spokesman Piotr Muller said during a debate in the lower house of parliament, the Sejm.
“We will not allow illegal immigrants to be forced in, we do not agree to the sale of our national assets, we are against raising the retirement age and the liquidation of the barrier on the Polish-Belarusian border. We want to hear the voice of Poles.”
Borys Budka, a lawmaker from the main opposition party, the liberal Civic Platform (PO), said the vote would not be a referendum but rather “an attempt to circumvent all regulations regarding the financing of the election campaign”.
PiS says that PO is subservient to foreign interests, particularly those of Germany, and would sell off state assets to German companies.
The government also says PO is soft on migration and has pointed to an increase of the retirement age under a previous PO government as evidence that the party would do so again if it returned to power.
PO rejects these criticisms, and says the government has itself sold state assets below their value while awarding well-paid jobs in public companies to its supporters.
On migration, PO says that PiS has not been effective in stopping an increase in illegal migration while at the same tiime pointing to an increase in visas given to workers from the Middle East and Asia under PiS.
In 2022 Hungary held a referendum on LGBT issues alongside elections.
(Reporting by Pawel Florkiewicz and Alan Charlish; Editing by Hugh Lawson)
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