Poland's ruling party drags German chancellor into referendum debate

Germany's new chancellor, Olaf Scholz addresses the media during a joint press conference with Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki in Warsaw in 2021
Germany's new chancellor, Olaf Scholz addresses the media during a joint press conference with Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki in Warsaw in 2021 Copyright AP Photo/Czarek Sokolowski, File
Copyright AP Photo/Czarek Sokolowski, File
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A new advert portrays Olaf Scholz in an unfavourable light over a vote on the country's retirement age.


Poland's conservative ruling party unveiled a new campaign advert on Monday that portrays German Chancellor Olaf Scholz in an unfavourable light.

The Law and Justice party has governed Poland since 2015 and is seeking to keep power when the country holds an October 15 parliamentary election.

In the new advert, party leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski pretends to reject a call from Scholz suggesting Poland should raise the retirement age, which is one of the topics of a voter referendum taking place at the same time as the election.

The question targets the main opposition party, Civic Platform and its leader, Donald Tusk, a former Polish prime minister and European Union president who was on good terms with Germany. Civic Platform raised the retirement age before Law and Justice came to power.

In the spot, Kaczynski speaks into a cellphone and tells a pretend employee of the German Embassy in Warsaw: “Please apologise to the chancellor, but it will be the Poles who will decide the (retirement age) matter in the referendum. Tusk is no longer here and these practices are over.” He pretends to hang up.

AP Photo/Czarek Sokolowski, File
Jaroslaw Kaczynski, the head of Poland's ruling Law and Justice partyAP Photo/Czarek Sokolowski, File

The gesture implies that Tusk followed suggestions from Germany as Poland's prime minister and that the current nationalist government does not come under outside influences.

It was not clear if the party informed the German Embassy it would be featured in a negative campaign ad. The embassy press office said it was not commenting on the “current internal political debate in Poland.”

“Germany and Poland, as partners in the centre of Europe, bear joint responsibility for good-neighbourly relations and for a positive trans-border and European cooperation,” the embassy press office said.

Tusk's government provoked resentment in 2012 when it raised the minimum retirement age to 67, saying the pension system would be overburdened otherwise.

After it came to power in 2015, Law and Justice lowered the age to 60 for women and 65 for men, but at the same time encouraged people to work longer to be eligible for higher pensions. The government also has spent heavily on social programs and defense.

The upcoming referendum will ask Polish voters if they favor increasing the retirement age.

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