Civic Platform (PO), the main party of the Polish opposition, is seeking an agreement with a junior coalition partner of the dominant Law and Justice (PiS) about delaying the presidential election by a year in order to avoid chaos if the vote takes place in May as scheduled.
PO hopes that the Alliance – which has 18 MPs in the parliament and without which PiS does not have a majority – could be willing to support the delay. The opposition says that holding an election next month – when the coronavirus (COVID-19) epidemic might not have even peaked – would carry a high risk to public health.
The elections’ fairness, transparency and secrecy could also be compromised if the vote is by post only, an idea PiS is keen to implement, the opposition charges. The postal vote-only election also poses serious technical challenges, such as printing ballot papers for some 30mn eligible voters in just weeks.
PiS has been pushing for the election to take place as scheduled – or with a small delay at best – as it is growing concerned that the epidemic-induced economic crisis could dent the chances of incumbent President Andrzej Duda, a staunch ally of the party.
PiS also needs Duda if it is to finish its reforms, especially the controversial overhaul of the judiciary, which has put Warsaw at loggerheads with the EU. Brussels says PiS wants political control over the courts, which would run counter to the bloc’s fundamental treaties.
“I believe we can build a [parliamentary] majority for [delaying the election],” PO’s leader Borys Budka told the press on April 20.
However, chairman of the Alliance, Jaroslaw Gowin, said after meeting Budka that the agreement was not in sight just yet.
For its part, PiS had proposed adding to years to Duda’s current term in an apparent attempt to keep the Alliance from engaging in talks with the opposition. But the Alliance leadership is keen to leverage its improved political standing by kicking off the talks with PO anyway, it seems.
Duda comfortably leads polls with around 50% of support, which would give him a victory without the need for a run-off vote. The currently most popular opposition candidate, Polish People’s Party’s chairman Wladyslaw Kosiniak-Kamysz, is only on 12%.
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