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Most Poles says govt should give ground in EU rule-of-law row - survey

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FILE PHOTO: People walk in the city centre as the country's coronavirus disease (COVID-19) restrictions eased, in Warsaw

WARSAW (Reuters) - Almost three quarters of Poles think authorities should accept some or all EU demands to roll back judicial reforms it says violate the rule of law, a survey showed, suggesting strong disapproval of the hardline stance the government has taken.

Warsaw's already fraught relations with Brussels were plunged into crisis on Oct 7 when the country's Constitutional Tribunal ruled that parts of European Union treaties were incompatible with its constitution.

Poland was already at risk of losing billions in EU funds for failing to comply with demands to roll back the judicial reforms that Brussels says undermine the independence of the country's courts.

According to Tuesday's IBRiS poll for Rzeczpospolita daily, 40.8% of respondents believe the government should admit defeat and end that row as soon as possible, while 32.5% says it should compromise and accept some of Brussels' conditions.

Only 23% believe the government should not compromise at all, even if that means losing EU funds.

Poland argues that the European Union is overstepping its mandate and, in a Financial Times interview published on Sunday, the ruling nationalist Law and Justice Party's (PiS) Prime Minister, Mateusz Morawiecki, accused the European Commission of holding a "gun to our head".

But surveys also show that the Polish public remains overwhelmingly pro-European, with two this month putting support for EU membership at 90%.

Anna Materska-Sosnowska, a political scientist at Warsaw University said public opinion might persuade the government to compromise.

However, that could alienate hard-right voters, political scientist Rafal Chwedoruk told Rzeczpospolita. "It will be more and more difficult for the government," he was quoted as saying.

Such voters could be key to PiS's hopes of gaining an absolute parliamentary majority in national elections scheduled for 2023. PiS is currently just short of a majority.

An IBRiS poll published on Monday put support for the party at 36%, in line with recent similar surveys but down from the 43.6% who voted for it at the 2019 election.

(Reporting by Alan Charlish and Anna Wlodarczak-Semczuk; editing by John Stonestreet)

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