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Polish president wants referendum on constitution in 2018

Associated Press logo Associated Press 3/05/2017
Polish President Andrzej Duda and his wife Agata Kornhauser-Duda walk during the celebration of the Constitution Day, commemorating the adoption of Polish constitution in 1791 in Warsaw, Poland, Wednesday, May 3, 2017. (AP Photo/Czarek Sokolowski) © The Associated Press Polish President Andrzej Duda and his wife Agata Kornhauser-Duda walk during the celebration of the Constitution Day, commemorating the adoption of Polish constitution in 1791 in Warsaw, Poland, Wednesday, May 3, 2017. (AP Photo/Czarek Sokolowski)

WARSAW, Poland — Poland's president said Wednesday that he wants the country to hold a referendum next year on possible changes to the nation's 20-year-old constitution.

"It's time for a serious constitutional debate, not just with politicians but with the whole of the nation," President Andrzej Duda, who hails from the ruling conservative Law and Justice party, said during observances marking the national Constitution Day holiday.

Duda said he wants Poland to be a place "where there are no unfounded privileges, where there are no better castes of citizens, where all citizens are united."

Law and Justice leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski has long said he wants a new constitution. Kaczynski says the current one, which went into force eight years after communism's collapse, entrenched privileges of ex-communists in the social structure.

Political opponents denounced the plan for the 2018 referendum as an attempt to move toward a more authoritarian political system. They said they are skeptical about the party's motives for amending the constitution in light of its moves since taking power in 2015 to erode the independence of the courts, the media, and other institutions.

"We would like to have full democracy, based on the three branches of government," Katarzyna Lubnauer, a lawmaker with the opposition party Modern, said. "Law and Justice's recent actions go in the opposite direction, making the president's announcement quite disturbing."

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