Poland's president moves toward constitution changes vote

Poland's President Andrzej Duda said Friday he is hoping to win approval for a November referendum on whether the country's constitution should be changed and if so to what extent.

Duda, who thinks the 1997 constitution needs revising, is urging the Senate to give its approval for the Nov. 10-11 referendum of 10 questions. These include whether the constitution should confirm Poland's European Union and NATO memberships, its Christian roots, the right-wing government's policy of family bonuses as well as everyone's right to work.

"I would like the Poles to take matters in their hands and speak about the future course for the country," Duda said.

The proposed timing of the referendum, marking 100 years of Poland's independence, may conflict with key local elections scheduled to be held around that time.

Duda's announcement came as the ruling right-wing Law and Justice party pushed amendments through parliament to its own controversial overhaul of the judiciary that will help it appoint the head of the Supreme Court and influence the work of judges.

In the debate, opposition lawmakers said Law and Justice was dealing a deadly blow to Poland's justice system.

The job and the independence of the Supreme Court's chief justice are at the center of a major political battle.

Law and Justice considers Judge Malgorzata Gersdorf to be retired in light of recent legislation that lowered age limits for judges. Gersdorf, however, has continued to show up for work, insisting that, according to the constitution, her term runs until early 2020.

EU leaders have said the judicial overhaul undermines Poland's constitution and its rule of law and have triggered sanctioning procedures.