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The Warsaw Voice » Politics » December 2, 2009
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Tusk Wants New Constitution
December 2, 2009   
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Prime Minister Donald Tusk Nov. 21 called for changes to the constitution and the country's political system by making the government the main center of power and having the president elected by the National Assembly, or a joint session of the lower and upper houses of parliament, rather than by popular vote.

Poland cannot afford a continuous "war scenario," or a situation in which the ruling camp and the president, who is tied to the largest opposition party, are in constant conflict, Tusk said. This problem could be remedied by amending the constitution, he added.

"In our constitutional system, we have built a situation in which a conflict between political institutions responsible for the country may be impossible to deal with," Tusk said. He added that this kind of conflict has been a permanent fixture of Polish politics for the past two decades, regardless of changing political setups.

Tusk wants the constitutional amendments to come into force by the fall of next year so that the next president is elected by the parliament. The next presidential election is scheduled for the fall of 2010.

According to Tusk, the president's right to veto laws should be abolished and he also called for amendments to electoral law. Tusk is pressing for a changeover to a first-past-the-post system for Senate, or upper-house, elections and a mixed electoral system-first-past-the-post plus proportional representation-for elections to the Sejm, the lower house of parliament.

Tusk's ideas drew immediate criticism from the opposition and the President's Office. Opposition party leaders, Law and Justice's (PiS) Jarosław Kaczyński and the Democratic Left Alliance's (SLD) Grzegorz Napieralski, said the proposed changes were harmful because they would lead to a situation in which one party would have a monopoly on power. At the same time, the existing parliamentary arithmetic makes the proposals unrealistic, they said, especially as President Lech Kaczyński is sure to veto them.

Kaczyński's aides dismissed Tusk's proposals as a political ploy whereby the prime minister is seeking to secure the presidency for himself. The ruling Civic Platform (PO) has a sufficient majority in both houses of parliament to make sure that Tusk gets the top job in the state, while the outcome of a general election could be uncertain, according to Kaczyński's aides.

A large group of constitutional lawyers also distanced themselves from Tusk's ideas, saying the plan to draft and adopt a new constitution within a year was unrealistic.
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