Poland's presidential election amid pandemic may fall short of int'l standards - OSCE

Poland's presidential election amid pandemic may fall short of int'l standards - OSCE

Agency News

Warsaw, Apr 8 : The upcoming presidential election in Poland may fall short of international standards due to restrictions on traditional campaigning and the lack of real public debate caused by the government's response to the coronavirus pandemic, Ingibjorg Solrun Gisladottir, the director of the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR), said.

The first round of the presidential election in Poland is scheduled for May 10. The term of the current head of state, Andrzej Duda, expires in the summer of 2020, and in accordance with the country's constitution, the new presidential election should be held in spring. However, the country has introduced tough measures, including a lockdown, to curb the spread of the coronavirus. All borders have been closed, non-essential businesses were shut down. Moreover, gatherings of more than two people have been banned and leaving home is restricted for only essential needs.

"Genuine elections require an authentic campaign in which voters can hear the programmes and opinions of all candidates in order to make a well-informed choice. The current limitations on public gatherings due to the pandemic make campaigning close to impossible. I am concerned that if the presidential election goes ahead under the current circumstances, it may fall short of a number of international standards," Gisladottir said, as quoted in the ODIHR press release on Tuesday.

Gisladottir recalled that all OSCE countries have committed themselves to holding democratic elections, which include not only the election day itself but also the periods before and after the vote.

The ODIHR official also recalled that the authorities planned to hold the upcoming election via postal voting.

On Monday, the lower house of the Polish parliament passed a bill sponsored by the ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party that introduced various changes in procedures for upcoming elections, including holding them via postal voting. The document has to be debated in the upper house, which is controlled by the opposition. If the upper house rejects the document, it will again be sent back to the lower house, which can overcome the veto by a majority of votes.

"While postal voting can be an effective way of reaching citizens who may otherwise be unable to vote, the context in which the current changes are being planned as well as their scale are of particular concern so close to the election, especially as postal voting is difficult to organize in such a short space of time," she explained.

Gisladottir added that she was closely following the ongoing debate in the Polish parliament and urged lawmakers to think carefully about the consequences of their decision. (SPUTNIK)