A new campaign ad from Poland’s ruling party features Germany’s chancellor in unfavorable light

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Poland’s conservative ruling party unveiled a new campaign ad Monday that portrays German Chancellor Olaf Scholz in an unfavorable light.

The Law and Justice party has governed Poland since 2015 and is seeking to keep power when the country holds an Oct. 15 parliamentary election.

In the new campaign spot, party leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski pretends to reject a call from Scholz suggesting Poland should raise the retirement age, which is one of the topics of a voter referendum taking place at the same time as the election.

The question targets the main opposition party, Civic Platform and its leader, Donald Tusk, a former Polish prime minister and European Union president who was on good terms with Germany. Civic Platform raised the retirement age before Law and Justice came to power.

In the spot, Kaczynski speaks into a cellphone and tells a pretend employee of the German Embassy in Warsaw: “Please apologize to the chancellor, but it will be the Poles who will decide the (retirement age) matter in the referendum. Tusk is no longer here and these practices are over.” He pretends to hang up.

The gesture implies that Tusk followed suggestions from Germany as Poland’s prime minister and that the current nationalist government does not come under outside influences. Law and Justice’s voter base includes older adults who may hold hard feelings over Germany’s brutal occupation of Poland during World War II.

It was not clear if the party informed the German Embassy it would be featured in a negative campaign ad. The embassy press office said it was not commenting on the “current internal political debate in Poland.”

“Germany and Poland, as partners in the center of Europe, bear joint responsibility for good-neighbourly relations and for a positive trans-border and European cooperation,” the embassy press office said in an email to The Associated Press.

Tusk’s government provoked resentment in 2012 when it raised the minimum retirement age to 67, saying the pension system would be overburdened otherwise.

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After it came to power in 2015, Law and Justice lowered the age to 60 for women and 65 for men, but at the same time encouraged people to work longer to be eligible for higher pensions. The government also has spent heavily on social programs and defense.

The upcoming referendum will ask Polish voters if they favor increasing the retirement age.

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