Warsaw to allow people to cast ballots through mail
WARSAW: Poland on Saturday adopted rules allowing people over 60, in quarantine or self-isolation to vote via postal ballot, as controversy rages over government plans to hold a presidential election despite the Covid-19 pandemic.
The right-wing Law and Justice (PiS) government came under heavy pressure last week over its decision to maintain the May 10 election as an opinion poll showed that 72% of respondents wanted the ballot postponed.
Opposition parties argue that asking citizens to visit polling stations would violate mandatory social distancing measures, exposing millions to a potentially deadly infection.
Seeking a second term, PiS-allied incumbent President Andrzej Duda admitted late on Saturday that the current “election date may turn out to be unsustainable” should the pandemic “still be raging” in mid-May.
Dominated by the PiS, parliament adopted the changes to the electoral law in a pre-dawn vote on Saturday.
Critics including constitutional experts claim the new measures violate Constitutional Court rulings stating that changes to the election code must be adopted six months before voting day.
“Law and Justice party is breaking the rules of parliament to change the #Election Code under the cover of night!” left-wing MP Krzysztof Gawkowski tweeted at 2am local time.
The PiS-backed changes allow postal ballots for voters “who are 60 years of age” or “subject to compulsory quarantine, isolation or isolation at home on election day”.
While the Senate, where the opposition has a majority, could reject the measures within the next 30 days, the PiS-dominated lower house would likely adopt them again before sending them for final approval to Mr Duda.
Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki and powerful PiS leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski, a close ally of Mr Duda, the current front-runner, have said they see no reason to postpone the election.
Meanwhile, former liberal Polish Prime Minister and ex-EU President Donald Tusk, now the leader of the European People’s Party (EPP), said that “only a fool or a criminal” would propose that people go vote in May.
An EU member of 38 million people, Poland has recorded more than 1400 confirmed cases of coronavirus.
It shut borders and schools earlier this month and has since limited public gatherings to two people and restricted freedom of movement in line with EU-wide measures.