Polish party eyes Catholic voters with charter plan

Poland's conservative opposition proposed handing sweeping powers to the president and outlawing abortion and gay marriage in a new constitution.

Polish party eyes Catholic voters with charter plan

Poland's conservative opposition proposed handing sweeping powers to the president and outlawing abortion and gay marriage in a new constitution on Friday, positioning itself for elections this year and next.

Law and Justice Party (PiS) leader and former prime minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski, whose twin brother Lech is head of state, said under the new charter the president could dissolve parliament more easily and have a say in judicial matters.

The right to hang crucifixes in public places would also be enshrined in the constitution, Kaczynski said, in a clear appeal to Catholics shocked by a recent European Court of Human Rights ruling demanding the removal of crucifixes from Italian schools.

Roman Catholic Poland faces a presidential election this autumn and a parliamentary poll in 2011.

"In our proposal, the president is above all other powers (institutions) and... is the guardian of righteousness, independence and national strategy," Jaroslaw Kaczynski told a news conference.

Lech Kaczynski has infuriated the government of centre-right Prime Minister Donald Tusk by vetoing various reforms over the past two years. Jaroslaw Kaczynski said some of the president's decisions would have the force of law under the charter plan.

Reaction from Tusk's pro-business, pro-European Union Civic Platform (PO) was swift. "This (kind of system) is not encountered in the EU," said Krzysztof Lisek, a PO lawmaker in the European Parliament.

A PO lawmaker in the Polish parliament, Malgorzata Kidawa-Blonska, called the PiS plans "dangerous".

PO recently unveiled its own proposals for updating the constitution that involved diluting the president's powers.

"Invocation of god"

Jaroslaw Kaczynski, ousted from power in 2007, said his constitution would protect human life from the point of natural conception until natural death, effectively ruling out artificial methods of conception, abortion and euthanasia.

"This new constitution will start with an invocation of God. The plan is not to turn our country into a theocracy but to refer to our traditions," he said.

The charter would define marriage as being between a man and a woman only, shutting off debates about whether to allow gay marriage. Abortion is currently illegal in Poland except in special circumstances. The powerful Catholic Church is leading opposition to efforts to allow 'in vitro' fertilisation.

"We have put into our draft constitution the right to preserve symbols, including religious symbols. This would be a new citizen's right that responds to what has been happening in the European Union lately," Kaczynski told a news conference.

PiS lags PO in opinion polls which also suggest Tusk would trounce Lech Kaczynski in this year's presidential election if the prime minister decides to run.

Tusk has said he will decide whether to run before the end of the winter. Political analysts say Tusk is worried that if he becomes head of state, his party may perform less well in next year's parliamentary election.

An opinion poll published on Friday showed 49 percent of Poles backed Tusk's PO and 28 percent supported PiS, which favours more state intervention in the economy and is sceptical about joining the euro.

The PiS draft constitution would also include commitments to economic growth, workers' and farmers' rights, free education and health care and the protection of national heritage and the environment, Jaroslaw Kaczysnki said.

Reuters
Last Mod: 15 Ocak 2010, 21:43
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