Poland’s ruling party wants a referendum on the sell-off of state assets

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Poland’s ruling party leader said Friday that Polish voters will be asked to decide whether they support the sell-off of state-owned enterprises in a referendum, saying it would be about “whether the wealth of generations will remain in Polish hands.”

The conservative ruling party has for some time expressed a wish to hold a referendum on the highly emotional topic of migration alongside the fall’s parliamentary elections, which the president scheduled this week for Oct. 15.

Law and Justice party leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski said Friday that the party now plans more than one referendum question.

Kaczynski, who is also the deputy prime minister, made the announcement in a video posted to X, the platform formerly known as Twitter. He said the first referendum question would say: “Do you support the sell-off of state-owned enterprises?” The graphic showed the question as it would look on a ballot, with a red X appearing in the ”No” box.

He then linked privatization efforts to his main competitor, the pro-business Civic Platform party, led by former Prime Minister Donald Tusk. Civic Platform, a center-right party, governed from 2007 to 2015. The party is now running at the head of a four-party electoral coalition called Civic Coalition that includes the Greens and a liberal pro-business party, and has shifted somewhat to the left.

Law and Justice has long tried to portray Tusk, a former president of the European Council, as a politician who serves the interests of Germany, the Western neighbor who inflicted atrocities on occupied Poland during World War II but which is now an ally in NATO and the European Union.

During a meeting with voters last month Kaczynski said: “Donald Tusk is a true enemy of the Polish nation! This man should not rule Poland. Let him take his politics to Germany!”

Opponents of the ruling party denounce the way it uses state resources, including public TV, to demonize its opponents, particularly Tusk, who was an anti-communist activist before the fall of communism in Poland and who portrays himself as a Polish patriot.

In his new video, Kaczynski said the referendum was aimed at putting decisions in the hands of Poles.

“For us, the voice of normal Poles is decisive. The voice of foreign politicians, including Germans, is of no importance, that is why in key issues we want to appeal to you directly, in a referendum,” Kaczynski said.

„You decide whether the wealth of generations will remain in Polish hands,” he said.

Opposition politicians took to social media to denounce the referendum as hypocrisy. Some noted that the ruling party, known by its Polish initials PiS, has itself sold of state assets, including the state oil company Lotos, on terms viewed as unfavorable to Poland.

“This referendum is one big PiS scam,” said Malgorzata Kidawa-Blonska, the deputy parliament speaker. “They sold Lotos to the Saudis for a song, and now they will brazenly ask Poles what they think about it? Liars and manipulators.”

According to a report from state radio, Law and Justice intends to publish more videos containing referendum questions in the coming days.

Polish authorities had previously announced plans to put the issue of an EU migrant relocation scheme to a referendum to coincide with the parliamentary election.

The lower house of parliament is due to take up the issue of the referendum at a sitting next week, according to the state news agency PAP.

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