Polish ruling party’s decision to go ahead with presidential elections scheduled for 10 May, has caused disagreements amongst the opposition. Although the country is in a state of “epidemiological emergency” with Covid-19 cases rising to 1,984, the nationalist Law and Justice (PiS) party insists on keeping to the schedule.
Leading opposition candidate Małgorzata Kidawa-Błońska suspended her campaign on Sunday, expressing protest to the government’s decision in an open letter. She said that in light of the global pandemic, “organising presidential elections would be a criminal action.”
“I can’t imagine how you can ask people to trust and at the same time encourage them to risk their lives and health,” she said.
Right-wing candidate Krzysztof Bosak criticised Kidawa-Błońska’s protests, by saying only the leading party should be responsible for organising the vote, and the opposition has no say in it. Independent candidate Szymon Hołownia said on Sunday that boycotting the elections means “a loss of civic rights.”
Current President Andrzej Duda, supported by PiS, continues to score high in opinion polls, with predictions that his victory will be secured in the first round by 65 per cent.
However, tougher lockdown measures were announced last week in Poland, with social gatherings restricted to two people and limiting people to leave their houses only for essential items. This will prevent the opposition to continue with their campaigns, furthering the chances of Duda to be reelected.
Despite these lockdown measures, the Polish government has still not declared a state of emergency. Doing so, even for the minimum period of 30 days, would make holding any elections impossible until 60 days after the emergency has been lifted. According to Eliza Rutynowska, a lawyer at the Civil Development Forum, if the government doesn’t officially declare the state of emergency, then it is “violating the constitution”.
In a response to criticism over the decision to not delay the presidential vote, Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said earlier this month:
“The presidential elections should take place at the planned time, because a lot of unexpected circumstances can appear in the long term, for example the return of the coronavirus this autumn.”
Poland is one of the only countries going ahead with national elections, since the WHO declared the coronavirus a pandemic. On 15 March, France held local elections, despite warnings from health professionals, that this will contribute to spreading the disease. Following the vote, many election officials were diagnosed with Covid-19.
Numerous countries have decided to postpone elections in the light of the outbreak. Serbia and North Macedonia delayed their general elections, while local elections in England and Wales, including the London mayoral elections, have been postponed for a year.
Russian president Vladimir Putin announced last week that he’s suspending the referendum on new measures that would allow him to remain in power. In an appeal to the public, he said that his “absolute priority” is the health and safety of the people, and that preventing a rapid spread of the disease is now extremely important.
Other countries, where elections have been impacted by the coronavirus, include Austria, Italy, India, the US, Argentina, Peru, etc.