September 7, 2019 / 8:11 AM / 6 months ago

Polish PiS promises voters even more cash ahead of October election

WARSAW (Reuters) - Poland’s ruling nationalist Law and Justice (PiS) party will offer pensioners regular annual cash bonuses and will almost double the minimum wage for workers, its leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski said ahead of parliamentary elections next month.

Poland's Law and Justice (PiS) leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski speaks during a party convention ahead of parliamentary elections in October, in Lublin, Poland September 7, 2019. Jakub Orzechowski/Agencja Gazeta via REUTERS

“At the end of 2020 the minimum pay will amount to 3,000 zlotys, at the end of 2023 it will be 4,000 zlotys,” Kaczynski told his party congress on Saturday. At present the minimum wage is 2,250 zlotys a month.

“In 2021 most pensioners will get two thirteen pay (cash bonuses),” Kaczynski added. This year pensioners were paid a so-called thirteenth payment, as the extra cash handout is known.

Earlier Kaczynski, who has no formal government post but is seen as Poland’s de-facto leader, was also quoted as saying in an interview with tabloid Super Express that he expects Mateusz Morawiecki to remain as Prime Minister if PiS wins on Oct. 13.

PiS, which is leading in opinion polls, faces a tough election campaign as its image as the party fighting for justice in Poland has been tarnished by political scandals.

Its parliamentary speaker resigned after Polish media revealed that he had used a government jet for private trips with his family.

And Poland’s deputy justice minister quit after he sought to discredit judges critical of the government’s judicial reforms by planting rumours about their private lives.

Against this background, PiS, which is targeting a majority in the new parliament, has decided to increase handouts to voters, especially its core electorate, including the elderly who this year received a one-off cash bonus.

Analysts have said that this year’s one-off bonus for pensioners, which was offered ahead of the elections to the European Parliament, cost the Polish state almost 11 billion zloty ($2.8 billion).

PiS won 26 seats and the anti-PiS opposition 25 in the election to select members of the European Parliament. Polls show Poles remain a very pro-EU nation.

The latest opinion poll show PiS may win around 43% of the votes in next month’s general election, while other parties combined may get 41%. Due to Poland’s voting system, this could mean a safe majority for PiS.

Despite domestic scandals and spats with the European Union over rule of law, environmental policy, migrants, PiS has maintained its popularity, thanks largely to a social programme which includes 500 zloty handouts for every child in a family.

The PiS also promised on Saturday increased payments for farmers and a hike in the minimum pension to 1,200 from 1,100 zlotys, without giving more details.

Reporting by Marcin Goclowski and Pawel Florkiewicz; Editing by Alexander Smith

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