Polish opposition slams ruling party's electoral reform plan

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Posted: Jan 17, 2017 12:13 PM
Polish opposition slams ruling party's electoral reform plan

WARSAW, Poland (AP) — Changes to an electoral law proposed by Poland's conservative ruling party are aimed at helping it win local elections next year, opposition leaders said Tuesday.

The head of the ruling Law and Justice party, Jaroslaw Kaczynski, who is Poland's most powerful politician, says he wants new regulations to limit to two the number of terms served by city and town mayors as well as local community heads. He argues it would give opportunities to new candidates and says some local leaders have been in office for decades.

"That helps neither democracy nor the good social relations in the given country or town," Kaczynski has said. "In brief — there is need for change."

But the leaders of two liberal opposition parties said the proposal aims to help Law and Justice take control of local governments, on top of controlling the parliament, the national government and the presidency.

They argue the new system would remove from office many respected city mayors and lower-level leaders mostly from opposition parties.

"We see these proposals as a plan to take over local governments, a plan for the Law and Justice to win local elections," said Jan Grabiec, spokesman for the liberal Civic Platform party that held power for eight years until the 2015 election.

Ryszard Petru, leader of the Modern opposition party, said he supports having no more than two terms in the future but won't back voting changes that "really serve Law and Justice purposes."

It was not immediately clear when the voting proposals would be formally submitted. He would like new regulations to be in force for the late 2018 local elections.

Kaczynski said the party would like terms already served to be taken into account, but added that the Constitutional Tribunal has to say whether that would be legal. Seven out of the court's 15 judges and its president have been appointed by the ruling party.