President confirms referendum plans as Poland honours 3rd May Constitution

Polish President Andrzej Duda said on Thursday that he will request the Senate (upper house) to hold a constitutional referendum on November 10 and 11 this year, as Poland marked 227 years since the adoption of the groundbreaking Constitution of May 3, 1791.

The head of state's words came as he addressed people outside Warsaw's Royal Castle, at a keynote ceremony to celebrate the adoption, by the then Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, of the famous 18th century supreme law.

Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki, cabinet ministers and top lawmakers were also in attendance.

Duda noted that by 1791, the Commonwealth was already "ripped apart" by Tsarist Russia, Prussia and Austria, and the constitution represented a patriotic attempt to restore a strong, fair Poland "like it was in the 16th century."

While this did not happen, the president said, the supreme law "became a big cornerstone of freedom, a big cornerstone of modern Polish statehood."

Both the victorious independence fighters of 1918 and the Solidarity movement of the 1980s - "which broke the dominance of communism in our part of the world" - drew inspiration from the famous 1791 document, Duda added.

The president also called on Poles to take part in a new referendum on constitutional matters, which is planned for November this year, to coincide with the centenary of Polish independence.

"I am announcing today that, within the statutory timeframe," Duda said, "I will submit a relevant request with the Senate to hold a (constitutional) referendum on November 10 and 11, 2018."

The head of state emphasised it is his intention that the plebiscite "where all Poles will have a say about their vision for Poland's future institutional system" takes place "on these great November dates," when the country re-emerged in 1918.

Both Senate (upper house) Speaker Stanislaw Karczewski and Sejm (lower house) Deputy Speaker and head of the ruling Law and Justice parliamentary club Ryszard Terlecki took to Twitter to comment on the president's announcement. Both said the timing of a referendum and the questions to be asked would be subject to discussions by the parliamentary majority.

The May 3 Constitution of 1791 was Europe's first written supreme law and the world's second, behind America's. It introduced hereditary constitutional monarchy (in place of the free election of kings), religious tolerance and the division of power into the legislative, executive and judicial branches, among other provisions.