Senate rejects amended referendum legislation

The rejection of the amendment, as proposed by the Senate committees, was voted for by 51 to 46 senators. Radek Pietruszka/PAP

The Senate, upper house, on Friday, rejected legislation amending referendum laws so that referenda can be held concurrently with parliamentary, presidential and European Parliament elections.

The rejection of the amendment, as proposed by the Senate committees, was voted for by 51 to 46 senators.

The amendment to the law on the national referendum was tabled with the Polish parliament by Poland's governing Law and Justice (PiS) party in early July.

If passed, the legislation would allow the government to hold a referendum on EU plans to impose a migrant relocation scheme on member states on the same day as the country’s general election, due this autumn, although the date has not yet been fixed.

The EU plans include states taking in a quota of people, or paying EUR 22,000 per non-admitted migrant to an EU refugee fund. Poland and Hungary voted against the scheme.

On July 3, Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki confirmed that a referendum on the EU's new migrant relocation plan will take place on the same day as this year’s parliamentary elections. He said that holding both ballots simultaneously would help cut costs.

Krzysztof Kwiatkowski, rapporteur of the joint Senate committees, said on Friday that "the amendment does not harmonise the hours of elections and the referendum... which is not conducive to voter and referendum turnout."

According to the Senate's legislative office, other objections included the extremely fast pace of work on the act and failure to take into account the fact that combining this year's parliamentary elections with the referendum will make it difficult to distinguish between and account for referendum and election expenses.

"Given that the referendum campaign could be used for purposes correlated with the goals of any political party," - the committees were in favour of rejecting it in its entirety, Kwiatkowski also said.

The amendments rejected by the Senate adjust referendum laws to a January 2011 electoral code, which means referenda taking place on the same day as elections will have to be carried out in the same hours as the voting - from 7 am to 9 pm.

Other adjustments concern, among others, constituency numbers and boundaries and the seats of district electoral commission.

The changes are to help lower referendum costs, the legislation’s authors said.

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