Poland’s ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party suffered a rare defeat in the lower house on February 1 as some of its own MPs voted down new legislation aimed at containing the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic.
The proposal, dubbed “lex Kaczynski” after it received endorsement from the party’s chairman himself, sought to give employers the right to demand from employees a negative coronavirus test no older than 48 hours.
Those who would not test could also be subject to lawsuits for exposing others to the coronavirus, the draft legislation proposed.
The opposition as well as some in the ruling camp criticised the proposal for the provisions, arguing that Poland would not handle an increase in the number of tests. Lawsuits would also not hold because it is impossible to prove that a COVID-19 infection was due to a particular person.
The proposal eventually went down with only 152 MPs supporting it and 253 voting against. The against votes included 24 MPs from the ruling coalition of PiS and the smaller party United Poland. Another 37 coalition MPs abstained and 16 were absent.
PiS tried to blame the opposition for the defeat that exposed divisions in the ruling camp.
“This vote is irrefutable proof that the opposition does not want to discuss solutions that will help fight the pandemic. We presented the draft, encouraged the opposition to work on it and perhaps to improve it. Unfortunately, the opposition did not even want to talk about amendments,” PiS’ spokesman Anita Czerwinska told a news conference in the parliament.
The PiS-led coalition has long been split over measures to contain the pandemic but managed not to let that show in voting. Instead, it would choose to adopt solutions that would not anger parts of the electorate opposed to lockdown or vaccinations.
Critics say that lack of a firm response has put Poland among the worst-hit countries in terms of COVID-19 deaths.
Recent data from the statistical office GUS showed that the number of deaths in Poland last year – due to COVID-19 and related due to worse access to healthcare – was the highest since World War Two.