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Poland ignores calls to postpone presidential election

Warsaw, Poland – Poland’s ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party has so far dismissed calls to postpone the presidential election due to the coronavirus outbreak.

In an interview with radio broadcaster RMF FM, PiS chairman and de-facto leader of Poland Jaroslaw Kaczynski insisted the elections “should be held” in May as originally planned. “We can’t say that we are postponing elections just because for some reason we think that this should be done. There must be constitutional premises”, he said.

The presidential election is scheduled to be held on May 10 in Poland, with a potential run-off two weeks later on May 24. A few days ago, Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki also supported the idea that “the elections should take place on the planned date”, while Poland’s deputy-Internal Affairs Minister Pawel Szefernaker said it was still unsure whether or not the election would go ahead according to plan.

Citing the examples of other elections that have been postponed across Europe, opposition politicians and presidential hopefuls have called for the ballot to be delayed on the grounds that it could pose a major public health risk and that, since all campaign events have been cancelled, the election could not be held in free and fair circumstances.

Although incumbent Andrzej Duda, the candidate of the ruling party with a comfortable lead in all opinion polls, has also stopped campaigning as part of the restrictive measures introduced by the government to fight the viral outbreak, critics argue that, as head of state, he’s given an unfair advantage and benefits from all the media coverage surrounding his involvement in combatting the Covid-19 pandemic.

“For the president this is quite comfortable, because he is widely recognized and he doesn’t have to go and show himself”, commented political scientist Anna Materska-Sosnowska following Duda’s announcement he would not hold any large campaign rally. “It makes things much more difficult for the other candidates”, including lead opposition candidate Malgorzata Kidawa-Blonska.

Three recent polls showed that a vast majority of Polish voters (between 62% and 72%) are in favour of postponing the ballot.

Since the first infection was officially confirmed by Polish authorities on March 4, Poland has reported a total number of 799 infections and 9 deaths at the time of writing.