citizens' initiative and referendum


Abstract of a lecture given at the Direct Democracy Conference, London 2004, organised by Citizens' Initiative and Referendum I&R http://www.iniref.org/conf.html

Report about direct democracy in action, Poland
Legislative regulations in today’s Poland
Local referenda experiences
(summary available in Polish on request)

Radoslaw Gawlik, Wroclaw, member of board Zieloni 2004, president of Ecological Association "Eko-Union".

I. History:
1. Country referenda during the times of the People’s Republic of Poland:
a. System referendum in 1946 (3 questions):
• abolition of the Senate -- for, 68%
• consolidation of the agricultural reform and the nationalization of the economy -- for, 77 %
• moving the border to the rivers Odra and Nysa -- for, 91 %
Attendance 85 %
      b. referendum dealing with the reforms in 1987, Walesa calls for a boycott, two questions:
• for the support of a radical economy reform -- for 44%
• for the support for Polish model of deep democratization of the political life -- for 46 %.
Voter participation claimed to be 67% ?
2. In Poland after the peaceful revolution in 1989:
a. enfranchisement referendum in 1996 -- attendance 33 %
b. constitutional referendum in 1997 -- attendance 43 %, 53 % of whom supported the new constitution
c. EU access referendum in 2003 -- attendance 59 %, among which 77 % supported the EU access!

II Legislative regulations in today’s Poland (the most important):

1. The constitution
(English version: http://www.sejm.gov.pl/prawo/konst/angielski/kon1.htm )
a. article 118, bill 2: legislative initiative of the citizens.
b. article 125 - country referendum

2. Bill on the execution of legislative power by the citizens
a. people’s initiative
• legislative  -- 100 thousand citizens’ signatures, 3 months for the collection of signatures -- the duty of the house of representatives to consider the initiative during a period of 3 months
3. (Ed.: the following sentence may be wrongly translated) Bill on the country referendum in 2003 -- about 20 initiatives in the house of representatives from 1990 to 2003, there were 3 referenda.

III. Local referenda experiences:
rules: 10 %  of the citizens must sign order for the results to be valid, there must be at least 30% attendance.

Local referenda concerned the following issues:
1. self-taxation; locally-important issues, very often concerning the vetos of the mayor. (Ed.: presumably this means recall of an elected politician.)
2. administrative borders of counties, constituencies, states.