Referendum on ousting the Warsaw Mayor Hanna Gronkiewicz-Waltz took place on October 13. The referendum on removing the mayor of Warsaw from the office was initiated by Warsaw Self-Government Community and opposition parties: Law and Justice and Palikot’s Movement, according to UKRINFORM. They accused the mayor of unjustified price increase for public transport travel fares, problems caused by the transition to a new system of garbage collection, poor implementation of investments, and increase in red tape. If the majority of residents of the Polish capital would have voted to dismiss Gronkiewicz-Waltz, she would be forced to resign a year prior to the official end of her term in office. Then Prime Minister Donald Tusk would have had to determine a commissioner, who would temporarily serve as a mayor before the new elections.
However, the low turnout of the capital residents spared the prime minister from the defeat of his ally Gronkiewicz-Waltz. According to exit polls, 27 percent of Varsovians came to the polling stations, while 29 percent was necessary to declare the vote valid.
“Gronkiewicz-Waltz, former head of the Central Bank, is one of the national leaders of the Civic Platform. Her seven-year rule in Warsaw has seen a push to upgrade the city’s infrastructure, but setbacks, which included project delays and higher prices of public transportation, have turned some residents against her,” reported The Wall Street Journal. At the same time, according to the newspaper, the fact that the Warsaw mayor’s opponents were able to collect enough signatures to prompt the vote, however, highlights the ruling party’s struggle to maintain popularity.
In a letter released before the referendum Gronkiewicz-Waltz addressed the public: “I would like to address especially those Varsovians, who are still hesitating whether to participate in the Warsaw referendum or not. If you believe that nothing wrong is happening in Warsaw, don’t participate in this referendum.” She stressed that in a year her second term in office will end and then the residents of the city will have a chance to evaluate her work in the next elections. Politicians of the Polish ruling party Civic Platform also urged residents to ignore the referendum for dismissal of their party colleague Gronkiewicz-Waltz.
The Day asked the analyst from the Institute of International Relations at Warsaw University Andrzej SZEPTYCKI to comment on the progress and results of the referendum.
“This referendum was possible due to two factors. On the one hand, it was the negative assessment of policy pursued in Warsaw – the actions of the administration, including the actions of Gronkiewicz-Waltz. It is the local Warsaw dimension. There was also another – nationwide dimension. Since Gronkiewicz-Waltz is a member of Civic Platform and one of the vice-chairpersons of the party, the Polish opposition tried to use this Warsaw issue as an element of the national political game, which was taken by the Civic Platform accordingly.”
How would you comment on the low turnout of voters and the fact the referendum was declared invalid?
“The turnout of 25-27 percent is lower than it was in presidential elections. But we must keep in mind that the Poles generally do not like to vote. Second, there was very little information about this referendum in the media and it seems to me that it was a partly conscious decision of the media that support Civic Platform not to talk about this referendum, so that it would be declared invalid.”
Can we say that this referendum shows a decline in popularity of Tusk’s party?
“This vote did not give an answer to the question about the level of support for the Polish government. About 25 percent voted for the dismissal, but then it looks like the rest – 75 percent support her politics.”