Polish Parliament OKs Referendum Wording

Times Staff Writer

The Polish Parliament on Friday approved the wording of a referendum to be presented next month to voters, who will be asked to say yes or no to what the government calls “radical curing” of the economy and “deep democratization of political life.”

The two questions to be placed on the referendum, set for Nov. 29, do not spell out in detail what the government means to do to revamp the nation’s ailing economy or freshen its constrained political climate. But the referendum itself is designed to win some public approval for changes that are likely to result in sharp price increases, always an explosive issue here.

While the topmost branches of the Polish government of Gen. Wojciech Jaruzelski seem committed to reform measures that would reduce the central government’s role in the economy, it is not certain that they will be successful in overcoming a 40-year accretion of Communist bureaucracy, most of it deeply resistant to change.


Economic Reform Question

The plan to present Polish voters with a referendum on reform issues was announced two weeks ago when Premier Zbigniew Messner unveiled the broad outlines of the government’s reform scheme.

Since Messner’s announcement, officials in the government and press reports have speculated that the referendum might offer Polish citizens a choice on the pace of reform, pegged to a system of price increases, with the highest increases leading to the fastest reform.

However, as the questions were presented to the Sejm (Parliament)--and passed by a vote of 387 to 0--they offered no range of choices. The question on economic reform: “Are you for full implementation of the program of radical curing of the economy presented to the Sejm aimed at clear improvement of the society’s living conditions, knowing that it will require going through a two-to-three-year period of quick changes?”

The second question: “Are you for the Polish model of deep democratization of political life, the goal of which is to strengthen self-management, expand rights of citizens and increase their participation in governing the country.”

Kazimierz Barcikowski, head of the Sejm committee on the reform plan, said in a press conference following the vote that no level of price increases had as yet been decided and admitted that the government would have to “campaign” to win voter approval of the package.