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A view of the Palace of Culture and Science is pictured from the Warsaw Spire skyscraper in Warsaw, Poland May 12, 2016. REUTERS/Kacper Pempel(reuters_tickers)
WARSAW (Reuters) - Warsaw's mayor vowed on Thursday to fight a proposal to expand the city's electoral boundaries, amid angry accusations that it is part of a plan to rig elections in the ruling party's favour.
Law and Justice (PiS) lawmakers this week filed a draft bill that would add 32 communities to the capital. The nearly 2 million residents of the current Warsaw would end up with 18 representatives, while the new additional communities, with a combined population of less than 1 million, would get 32.
PiS representatives reject complaints that means the bill could violate the constitution, saying that a new "double-majority" rule would redress the imbalance.
The conservative PiS won an unprecedented outright parliamentary majority in the 2015 general election. Support for the party is stronger in smaller towns and in the countryside than in the more liberal cities.
The draft bill has sparked uproar among opposition and rights activists who accuse the PiS of gerrymandering.
Warsaw mayor Hanna Gronkiewicz-Waltz, deputy head of the largest opposition party Civic Platform (PO), said on Thursday she would fight the new law in Poland and in Brussels.
"What PiS is proposing amounts to pushing in the direction of Belarus," she said, referring to the authoritarian government of Poland's eastern neighbour.
She said EU regulations required public consultation before changes in the borders of local government are made.
"This will be important for the European Union," she said. "We will be telling the EU that this (requirement) is not being observed."
PiS lawmakers defend the bill on the grounds that it would facilitate further growth of the Warsaw region by making it easier to co-ordinate infrastructure development, and say it follows the pattern of other European capitals.
"I would not be afraid of such changes because local governments need change," Prime Minister Beata Szydlo said on Wednesday.
Warsaw's city council, now controlled by PO, has an annual budget worth the equivalent of nearly $4 billion.
In the 2015 parliamentary elections, PiS candidates received 36 percent more votes than PO in the 28 communities surrounding Warsaw. Within the city, PiS received only 9 percent more votes than PO.
Since coming to power in late 2015, the eurosceptic PiS has made it more difficult for the constitutional court to challenge government legislation. The European Commission has said the changes threaten rule of law and democracy in Poland. PiS rejects these claims.
($1 = 3.9855 zlotys)
(Reporting by Marcin Goettig; editing by Andrew Roche)