Polish government draws up questions for voters, opposition calls foul

By Agnieszka Pikulicka-Wilczewska

WARSAW (Reuters) – The Polish government wants to pose questions to voters during a Oct. 15 election that will include whether Poland should take in “thousands of illegal immigrants”, a move rivals say aims to swing the vote by misleading voters about opposition policies.

The ruling nationalist Law and Justice (PiS) party said it had finalised four questions for what says is a referendum to coincide with the vote, covering whether to allow in more migrants, remove a border barrier with Belarus, sell more state assets and raise the pension age.

The centrist Civic Platform (PO), the main opposition party which is running neck and neck with PiS according to some polls, says the questions are designed to sway voters by distorting the opposition’s stance on these sensitive issues.

The PiS-dominated parliament is expected to approve the government’s plan later this week.

PiS, seeking a third term in power, has put opposition to migration at the centre of its campaign and says the opposition would hurt the economy by selling state assets and endanger security amid Russia’s war in Ukraine.

“When we propose a question so that we don’t sell out Poland’s wealth, the opposition gets furious. When we propose a question so that there is no compulsion to work until the age of 67, they are irritated,” Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said.

On migration, the proposed question asks whether Poles would support the “admission of thousands of illegal immigrants from the Middle East and Africa, in line with the compulsory relocation mechanism imposed by the European bureaucracy.”

The European Union agreed a deal in June under which each EU member would be responsible for a set number of migrants, mainly arriving in Europe from Africa and the Middle East, but it would not necessarily have to take them in. The PiS took a tough line in those talks against any move to force it to accept migrants.

Poland has taken in huge numbers of people fleeing Ukraine.

The PO says it does not have an open-door migrant policy and says none of the questions represent their policies.

“It’s chutzpah, not a referendum. They arrange a spectacle with the announcement of the questions, attack PO in each of them and suggest what answer to pick,” PO lawmaker Malgorzata Kidawa-Blonska wrote on X, formerly known as Twitter.

Lawmakers from smaller leftist parties have called for a boycott of the referendum if, as expected, it is approved by parliament.

PiS has also put Russia’s war in Ukraine at the centre of its campaign, saying it is the best guarantor of Poland’s security against any military threats and best defender against migration via Belarus, Russia’s ally which also borders Poland.

Defence Minister Mariusz Blaszczak said on Monday that Poles would be able to decide “whether the border will continue to be protected”, as he announced the final question in a post on X.

(Reporting by Agnieszka Pikulicka-Wilczewska; Editing by Edmund Blair)