WARSAW — The Polish Parliament will "find another solution" and make its own decision on proposed austerity measures if fewer than half the eligible voters cast ballots in a rare national referendum, an official said Saturday.
The referendum scheduled today--the second in Poland since 1946--also asks Poles to approve broader democratic freedoms, apparently as compensation for the austerity proposals.
Lech Walesa, leader of the banned union Solidarity, called the vote a "show for authorities" as he vowed to stay home.
Jerzy Breitkopf, the referendum official, told a news conference that 26.7 million citizens are eligible to vote and that the referendum results would be considered valid if more than 50% cast ballots.
"If the number of voters is smaller than 50%, the Parliament will have to find another solution," he said. "The Parliament will decide what to do with the reforms."
He did not say what Parliament would do if the referendum results were considered valid and voters disapproved proposed economic reforms--expected to hike food prices as much as 110% and increase rent and fuel prices by up to 200%.
But government spokesman Jerzy Urban has said the implementation of the price hikes would be spread over a longer period of time if Poles disapproved the one-step increases. The changes are seen necessary to help modernize the stagnant economy.
Walesa has warned the authorities that the price increases, even if approved by the people, might spark "dramatic events".
In the referendum's first question, Breitkopf said Poles will be asked if they approve or disapprove of proposed economic reforms, which also would allow departure from central planning and expansion of the private sector.
A second question seeks approval for the expansion of democratic freedoms, including permission to form independent associations.
Authorities have said surveys indicate there will be a 55% voter turnout at more than 20,000 polling stations nationwide.