December 23, 2015 / 8:36 AM / in 2 years

Poland's Walesa calls for early election, sees democracy at risk

Former Poland's president Lech Walesa addresses media next to his son Jaroslaw (R) outside a polling station in Gdansk, Poland October 25, 2015. REUTERS/Agencja Gazeta/Rafal Malko

WARSAW (Reuters) - Lech Walesa, leader of the Solidarity trade union that ended communism in Poland, said on Wednesday democracy was at risk and called for a referendum to force the ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party to hold an early election.

Though Walesa has no say in government decisions, he does have influence on public opinion in Poland and his remarks coincide with a growing unease among Poles unhappy with PiS’ policies, with critics say are undermining democracy.

Poland’s lower chamber of parliament passed a constitutional court law amendment on Tuesday that the supreme court and activists said would undermine the separation of powers and paralyze the constitutional court.

“One should think about organizing (ourselves), press for a referendum, show in a referendum that two third are against such rule and shorten (parliament‘s) term,” Walesa told private Radio Zet.

The ruling conservatives won the October general election securing an outright majority in both chambers of parliament on pledges to offer more social benefits for Poles who felt the country’s economic success was not equally distributed.

“This government acts against Poland, against our achievements, freedom, democracy, not to mentioning the fact that it ridicules us in the world,” Walesa said.

“I‘m ashamed to travel abroad.”

The PiS party, using nationalist rhetoric, dismisses criticism that it undermines Poland’s young democracy, saying it has a broad mandate to redesign the country to reflect its Catholic values and independence from Brussels.

New President Andrzej Duda, a close PiS ally, has refused to swear in Constitutional Tribunal judges chosen by the former parliament, while he swore in new judges elected by its PiS-controlled successor.

Poland, which overthrew communism in 1989 and joined the EU in 2004, has long been considered one of the strongest supporters of the European Union among the former Soviet bloc states.

Reporting by Marcin Goclowski; editing by Ralph Boulton

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