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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Poland Referendum Turnout A Sign of National Discontent

WARSAW, Poland -- Critics of Poland's first post-communist constitution have pointed to a low turnout in the constitutional referendum Sunday as a sign of popular dissatisfaction with the charter.


Just under 40 percent of Poland's eligible 28 million voters participated in the referendum -- about 25 percent below projections.


Official results are expected by Tuesday, but exit polls showed the constitution received approval by the required simple majority: 57 percent in favor and 43 percent against, with a margin of error of just over 1 percent.


Poland's right wing interpreted the apparent lack of public interest as a mandate to seek changes in the first major overhaul of Poland's basic law since communism was toppled eight years ago. Even backers of the constitution conceded low turnout may make it easier for critics to attack the document.


"I admit I am surprised by the low turnout. It will be easier to attack this constitution now than it would have been if the turnout was more than 50 percent,'' said President Aleksander Kwasniewski, who chaired parliament's constitutional drafting committee for two years before taking office. Right-wing parties vowed to seek changes if voters give them control of parliament in elections scheduled for September.


"We are going to return to the issues after the fall elections,'' said Janusz Tomaszewski, deputy chairman of Solidarity. "We will at least try to amend this document, if not change it completely.''


Solidarity criticized the charter prepared by the leftist-dominated parliament for failing to state that God-given law, or a universal set of values, is superior to any law made by men. It also wanted a ban on abortion and an explicit condemnation of human rights abuses during the communist period.


The powerful Roman Catholic church also interpreted the low turnout as a signal that the constitution does not enjoy broad support and hoped that there would be room for changes.