Polish Ruling Party Avoids Warsaw Mayor Recall on Turnout

Poland’s ruling party avoided the ouster of Warsaw Mayor Hanna Gronkiewicz-Waltz as a recall vote fell short of the minimum turnout required.

Out of Warsaw’s 1.33 million registered voters 25.7 percent cast ballots in the recall referendum, less than the minimum 389,430, or 29 percent, required to validate the measure, according to official results from the State Election Commission today.

Prime Minister Donald Tusk and his ruling Civic Platform party called on supporters to block the recall by boycotting the referendum. Of those who voted, 95 percent favored recalling Gronkiewicz-Waltz, a deputy chairman of the ruling party who had angered Varsovians with utility-price increases and delays in public works. 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.

“We were given a yellow card. We’ve noticed and are taking the appropriate steps,” Andrzej Halicki, head of Civic Platform’s party organization in the greater Warsaw area, said yesterday in an interview on TVN24. “The referendum was used by Law and Justice not to talk about Warsaw issues but to attack Donald Tusk and take the conflict nationwide.”

Economy, No-Confidence

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.

“This is my vote on no-confidence in the government, which told us not to take part in this referendum,” Marek Zagenczuk, a 30-year-old who voted to recall Gronkiewicz-Waltz, said yesterday. “If the mayor’s accomplished anything, it’s only because of European Union money, and that wasn’t her doing.”

Snap parliamentary elections before the scheduled 2015 ballot are possible, according to Tusk, who spent the past two weeks quashing 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 had 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.

Local Elections

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.

While the boycott appears to have staved off Gronkiewicz-Waltz’s recall, it may also damage Civic Platform in a key urban stronghold, according to Aleksander Smolar, president of the Batory Foundation, an independent research center in Warsaw.

“Civic Platform’s always had a hard time mobilizing its support base,” Smolar said in a discussion on TVN24. “Now they could have a serious problem before the next elections.”

Marta Waldoch in Warsaw at mwaldoch@bloomberg.net

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