Polish ruling party makes Germany the villain in campaign ad

Polish Civic Platform party convention in Tarnow

WARSAW (Reuters) - Poland's ruling nationalists unveiled a humorous ad on Monday showing the German embassy trying to order Warsaw to raise the retirement age, a sign of how claims of foreign influence have become central to the campaign for elections next month.

Anti-German sentiment has featured prominently in the Law and Justice (PiS) party's campaign to win a third term in office. It has repeatedly sought to portray former Prime Minister Donald Tusk, the leader of Poland's largest opposition grouping Civic Coalition (KO), as a German puppet.

The advert released on Monday depicts a call being placed to PiS leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski from the German embassy. The sound of the phone ringing turns the head of a cat in the famously feline-loving leader's office, as the sound of Wagner's 'Ride of The Valkyries' builds an atmosphere of tension.

"Guten Tag," the caller says, before continuing in heavily accented Polish. "I am calling from the German embassy and I would like to speak to the Chancellor about your 'Rentenalter', that is the retirement age in Poland. We believe it should be the same as it was under Prime Minister Tusk."

A stony-faced Kaczynski responds: "Please apologise to the Chancellor, but it is the Polish people who will decide about this issue in a referendum," he says. "Tusk isn't here any more and those habits are finished."

As prime minister, Tusk raised the retirement age to 67, from 65 for men and 60 for women, saying the move was needed to keep the pensions system afloat. PiS reversed the move, and Tusk says he has no intention of trying to raise it again.

The KO did not reply to a request for comment on the advert.

Poland is holding a referendum on the day of the election with questions on four issues: the retirement age, privatisation, hardening the border with Belarus and rejecting migrants under an EU deal.

The opposition calls the referendum a campaign exercise designed to energise government supporters and demonize opponents with a series of loaded questions.

A spokesperson for the German foreign office said it does not comment on domestic political debates in Poland, including the commercial.

"Germany and Poland, as partners in central Europe, have a shared responsibility for good neighbourly relations and successful cross-border and European cooperation," the spokesperson added.

(Reporting by Alan Charlish; Additional reporting by Adreas Rinke in Berlin; Editing by Peter Graff)