Polish President Andrzej Duda has appealed to the Senate to allow a second referendum on three “major issues” to be held on the same day as the general election, 25 October.
The announcement was made during a televised speech to the nation on the national TVP broadcaster.
“A few days ago I met with representatives of civic initiatives. They represent the six million Poles who signed the request for a referendum in three extremely important issues for the state and society – the possible abolition of compulsory schooling for six-year-olds, lowering the retirement age which was raised to 67 years, and the protection of state forests.”
President Duda said that the proposal to introduce changes to the schooling system was a controversial one. “Changes in the education system should be implemented while respecting the environment related to the school – teachers and professionals, but also parents who best know the individual needs and abilities of their children. The opinion of parents demanding the right to decide the shape of the education system in Poland must be heard.”
Duda also said that lowering the retirement age could have long term benefits for society. The retirement age was increased to 67 years by the governing Civic Platform (PO) party.
“Raising the retirement age to 67 years of age led to changes in the lives of all working people and their families, but also for future generations. It raised many doubts as to the merits of introducing such a regulation. […] Therefore, we should enable citizens to express themselves also in that which is so important for all of us.”
The final question to the referendum would deal with forested land owned by the state. “State Forests are one of the last not privatised national resources,” President Duda said on Thursday.
The issue of the sale of state-owned forests was one of the criticisms leveled towards former president Bronisław Komorowski.
President Duda stressed that the decision to hold a referendum on the same day as the general election (25 October) would not put any additional strain on the budget.
“I believe that the Nation is the supreme sovereign, and the voice of society – the voice of Poles – must be heard,” President Duda concluded in his first televised address since taking office on 6 August.
In a separate referendum on 6 September, Poles will be asked whether they approve of introducing single-member constituencies in elections to the lower house of Parliament, if they are in favour of changes in the current system of financing political parties from the state budget, and whether they are for introducing a presumption in favour of the taxpayer in disputes over the tax law.