Poland presidential election postponed over coronavirus safety fears

Politicians give green light for election to be held by postal vote at later date

Conrad Duncan
Thursday 07 May 2020 15:24 BST
Poland's president Andrzej Duda was expected to win a landslide in the election which was scheduled for Sunday
Poland's president Andrzej Duda was expected to win a landslide in the election which was scheduled for Sunday (AFP via Getty Images)

Poland’s governing parties have agreed to postpone the country’s presidential election, which was scheduled for the weekend, over concerns about safety due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The ruling nationalist party, Law and Justice (PiS), and its junior coalition partner, Accord, reached an agreement on Wednesday to call off the vote in anticipation that the country’s Supreme Court would declare the result invalid because of difficulties with voting in person.

Opposition parties had accused PiS of putting political interests ahead of public health by calling for the election to go ahead on Sunday.

On Thursday, Poland’s lower house of parliament gave the green light for the election to be held by postal vote at a later date, potentially in July.

A spokesperson for PiS suggested 12 July as a potential new date for the election, while Jacek Sasin, the deputy prime minister, told the radio station RMF FM that the earliest possible date for the vote would be in June.

“Yesterday, we worked out a solution which is good for Poland, which guarantees safe, fully democratic and transparent elections,” Jaroslaw Gowin, Accord’s party leader, told reporters on Thursday before the parliamentary vote.

Opinion polls had suggested that Poland’s president, Andrzej Duda, who is an ally of PiS, was set to win re-election by a landslide if the vote had gone ahead.

Meanwhile, PiS had wanted the election to take place this month due to fears that an expected recession brought on by the Covid-19 pandemic could dent its support and damage Mr Duda’s chances of victory.

The Polish president said he welcomed the agreement to postpone the election but hoped the rescheduled vote could be held as soon as possible.

Anna Materska-Sosnowska, a political scientist at Warsaw University, said the climbdown by the ruling party was unusual.

“This situation showed that the PiS had to step back for the first time in five years,” she told broadcaster TVN24.

Under PiS, Poland has clashed with the EU over controversial judiciary reforms, backed by Mr Duda, which the European Commission has said violate democratic norms.

The country currently has nearly 15,000 confirmed cases of coronavirus, with 737 deaths, according to the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Centre.

Additional reporting by agencies

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