Poland unveiled a new referendum question on Sunday about the EU’s policy on asylum seekers from the Middle East and Africa.
The referendum will ask Poles whether they back taking in “thousands of illegal immigrants from the Middle East and Africa” as part of an EU relocation scheme, Poland’s Prime Minister said. Mateusz Morawiecki of X, the platform formerly known as Twitter.
The referendum is scheduled for October 15, the same day that the parliamentary elections will take place.
Although Poland has taken in more than a million Ukrainian refugees, the central European country is less open to asylum seekers from Muslim-majority countries. In recent months, migrants from the Mideast and Africa have tried to cross Belarus’ border into Poland, with Warsaw accusing Minsk of using desperate people as a political weapon.
Can PiS once again use migration for electoral success?
Poland’s ruling Law and Justice Party (PiS) wants to make migration a major election issue, as it seeks to prevent the opposition Civic Platform from gaining power. The Civic Platform (PO) is led by Donald Tusk, who served as prime minister of Poland from 2007 to 2014 and later as president of the European Council.
PiS used anti-immigration sentiment to achieve an absolute majority in the lower house of parliament, or Sejm, in the 2015 elections. That year, more than a million people came to Europe seeking asylum, with many of them fleeing conflicts in places like Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan.
In June, the EU reached a consensus on the bloc’s key asylum and migration laws. The agreement means that member countries will have to take their share of asylum seekers or pay into a joint EU fund.
Poland, along with Hungary, rejected the EU’s asylum-seeking proposal.
PiS has often tied Donald Tusk to EU policies on migration, and claims that Tusk has done more for Germany than Poland. Anti-German sentiments tied to World War II are still held by a portion of the Polish electorate.
Tusk has previously said that the proposal for a referendum on migration shows that PiS is afraid for its electoral prospects. Inflation, along with discontent over Poland’s strict abortion laws, could be a factor in voters backing the PO in this election cycle.
More referendums are planned
There are also several other referendums scheduled for October 15 that have been set up by PiS.
Another question in the referendum is whether Poles support the sale of state-owned companies. PiS leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski said Germany wants to “embed Tusk in Poland to sell common property.”
Deputy parliament speaker Malgorzata Kidawa-Blonska called the referendum “a big scam of PiS.” He noted that the state oil company Lotos was partly sold to the government, with the Saudi Arabian state-controlled company Saudi Aramco buying some of its assets.
Another question in the referendum set for October is whether voters support raising the retirement age. PiS brought the retirement age to 65 for men and 60 for women.
During his tenure as PM, Tusk supported raising the retirement age for both women and men. In 2021, he later considered the decision a mistake.
The Polish government is expected to unveil the fourth subject of the referendum on Monday.
wd/jcg (AP, dpa)