April 5, 2018 / 3:06 PM / 8 months ago

Polish conservatives promise to govern "modestly" after outcry

WARSAW (Reuters) - Poland’s ruling conservative party proposed deep salary cuts for lawmakers on Thursday and told government ministers to give up bonuses, as its popularity slides before elections this year and next.

REFILE - QUALITY REPEAT Jaroslaw Kaczynski, leader of the ruling party Law and Justice, arrives for a news conference in Warsaw, Poland April 5, 2018. REUTERS/Kacper Pempel

The bonuses awarded by the eurosceptic Law and Justice (PiS) party last year have stirred a public outcry over financial excess. But PiS leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski said his party would rule more “modestly” from now on.

PiS, which is economically left-leaning in contrast to its otherwise right wing ideology, swept into power in 2015 on a promise of more economic equality and a pledge to wrench power from the elites.

Its backing in opinion poll has dived by 12 percentage points to 28 percent recently, after enjoying rising support for more than two years despite international accusations of a tilt towards authoritarianism.

PiS faces local elections this year and a parliamentary election in 2019.

“One doesn’t enter politics for the money and society clearly remembers that ..., hence expectations of far-reaching modesty in public life,” Kaczynski told a news conference.

The slide in popularity followed revelations that the party gave many of its ministers bonuses worth roughly 15,000 euros ($18,000), 15 times the average monthly salary in Poland.

Kaczynski, who holds no government posts but is seen as the most influential politician in Poland, said members of parliament and high-ranking local government officials should have their pay cut by 20 percent.

Current and former ministers should donate their bonuses to a Roman Catholic church charity, he said. “If that’s what the society wants, we should ... bear the financial cost, for the good of the homeland.”

Much of the PiS election success in 2015 was attributed to growing disillusionment with the long-ruling centrists after a string of scandals involving lavish meals that had deepened Poles’ sense of a remote and clannish elite.

PiS’s popularity is closely watched in western Europe where mainstream politicians worry over the rise of nationalism and euroscepticism before European Parliament election also in 2019.

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Reporting by Marcin Goclowski; additional reporting by Pawel Sobczak; editing by David Stamp

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