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The Warsaw Voice » Politics » June 3, 2015
Politics & Society
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Poles Face Referendum on Election Rules
June 3, 2015   
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Poles will Sept. 6 vote in a referendum proposed by President Bronisław Komorowski on whether they want a single-seat constituency election system, new tax rules and a change in the way political parties are funded.

Komorowski announced his plans for the referendum the day after his May 10 shock defeat in the first round of Poland’s presidential election to Andrzej Duda of the opposition Law and Justice (PiS) party.

Scrapping the proportional representation system used in Polish parliamentary elections in favor of single-seat constituencies, also known as the first-past-the-post system, was a key demand made by independent presidential candidate Paweł Kukiz.

Kukiz, a former rock star, finished third with over 20 percent of the vote in an unexpectedly strong performance in the first round of the presidential election.

As polls showed Komorowski and Duda neck and neck in the decisive, second round, the announcement of the referendum was seen by many as an attempt by the incumbent president to regain the political initiative and grab some of the votes that had gone to Kukiz.

Senators May 21 approved Komorowski’s plans for a referendum. After a stormy debate that saw Komorowski accused of using Poland’s electoral system as a political football in order to bolster his flagging campaign, 57 of 100 senators voted to allow the referendum to go ahead. Senators from the conservative Law and Justice party abstained from voting.

On Sept. 6, the referendum will ask Poles whether they want:
- single-member constituencies to be introduced;
- to keep funding political parties from tax money;
- taxpayers to be given the benefit of the doubt in disputes with state authorities when tax laws are ambiguous.

Officials have estimated that the referendum will cost around zl.100 million to hold. More than half of citizens entitled to vote have to cast their ballots for the referendum to be valid.

Introducing a new electoral system would require a change to Poland’s constitution, which in turn would need to be approved by a two-thirds majority in the lower house of parliament. However, such a majority would be hard to achieve as Law and Justice (PiS), the largest opposition party, fears it would lose out under a single-seat constituency system.
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