Polish Rock Star-Turned-Politician Set to Burn Out in Referendum

  • Ballot on changing voting system to miss turnout threshold
  • Kukiz's movement is losing supporters to main opposition party

Poland’s punk musician-turned-political sensation Pawel Kukiz is staying true to the rock motto that it’s better burn out than to fade away.

Sunday’s referendum over the front-man’s only stated political goal -- to change the nation’s voting system -- is set to accelerate his demise following a surprise showing in May’s presidential election, where he won 21 percent of the vote. Only 32 percent of Poles “definitely” plan to take part in the referendum, according to CBOS polling company’s Aug. 17-24 survey of 1,040 adults, well short of the required 50 percent needed for the vote to be binding.

The musician has failed to sustain public interest in his anti-establishment movement or electoral changes, losing swathes of supporters to the main opposition party, which polls show will win October’s general election. Kukiz’s “incompetence” and ineffective campaign are making Law & Justice appear as a “relatively safer alternative” for those who want to eject the Civic Platform party from power after eight years, according to Andrzej Rychard, a sociologist at the Polish Academy of Sciences in Warsaw.

“Kukiz rocked the political scene and even put some leaders on the defensive back in May,” Jacek Sokolowski, a political scientist scientist at Jagiellonian University in Krakow, said by phone on Thursday. “But things have gone downhill for him since and the referendum has practically no chance to be valid after a lackluster campaign.”

Backing for Kukiz’s movement has dropped to 6 percent in a Millward Brown survey from Aug. 24, compared with 18 percent in a similar poll six weeks earlier. Law & Justice is supported by 37 percent, while Civic Platform is at 27 percent in the latest survey.

The founder of a band called Piersi, or The Breasts, seeks to change Poland’s electoral system to U.K.-style single-mandate constituencies instead of proportional representation in parliament. Poles will also vote Sunday on whether political parties should continue to be funded by tax revenues and on the rights of taxpayers. The polling stations will open at 7 a.m. and close at 10 p.m. in Warsaw.

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