Warsaw residents will vote this weekend on whether to recall Mayor Hanna Gronkiewicz-Waltz, a test for Prime Minister Donald Tusk’s ruling party as it seeks to shore up its dwindling support.
Tusk and Gronkiewicz-Waltz, second-term Warsaw mayor, sought to discourage voters from taking part in the Oct. 13 referendum to render it invalid. Of the 37 percent of people planning to participate, 66 percent want to recall the mayor, according to a Sept. 23-27 survey of 1,000 adults by the polling company TNS Polska. No margin of error was given.
Gronkiewicz-Waltz, a deputy chairman in the ruling Civic Platform, has angered Varsovians with utility-price increases and delays in public works such as construction of a new metro line. Her support is dropping as backing for the party, the first to win back-to-back elections since the fall of communism in 1989, dropped below the opposition Law and Justice for the first time in six years.
“Losing the referendum would hurt the ruling party’s prestige in a big way,” Anna Materska-Sosnowska, a political scientist at the Warsaw University, said in a phone interview on Oct. 9. “It could open the way for the opposition to bid for power.”
If the recall succeeds, the prime minister is required by law to appoint a commissioner to replace the mayor until an election can be held. A turnout of 389,430, or 29 percent of Warsaw’s registered voters, is required to validate the vote. The percentage of voters planning to take part in the referendum dropped to 37 percent last month from 63 percent in June, according to TNS.
Poland’s economy is poised to grow at its weakest pace since at least 1997 while the unemployment rate was 13 percent in August, up from 12.4 percent a year earlier. With a plan to cancel government debt held by private pension funds angering urban voters, Tusk’s ruling coalition is clinging to a two-seat majority in parliament.
Snap parliamentary elections before the scheduled 2015 ballot are possible, according to Tusk, who spent the past two weeks squashing speculation that the ouster of Finance Minister Jacek Rostowski was imminent, a sign of discord in the coalition.
Since the referendum was announced on Aug. 20, Gronkiewicz-Waltz has campaigned door-to-door, canvassing support and promising discounts for public transport and other city amenities to people who pay taxes in Poland’s richest and most populous city. Tusk last month said the government will provide funding to complete a previously shelved beltway around Warsaw.
“When the main opposition party is calling this a credibility check for the government, it’s no longer a local matter,” Andrzej Halicki, who leads Civic Platform’s Warsaw-area organization, said today on Polish Radio One.
Poland’s capital, with per-capita income of three times the national average and home to 1.7 million of the country’s 38.4 million residents, has overwhelmingly voted for the current ruling party in every election since 2005.
That allegiance will be tested in votes for local governments and the European Parliament next year and general elections in late 2015.
“No matter who wins, we’re going to see political infighting heat up next year,” Materska-Sosnowska said.
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