After drawing widespread criticism from the opposition, wide sections of the Polish society and even coalition partners, the government in Poland led by the right-wing Law and Justice (PiS) party decided on May 6, Wednesday to postpone the presidential polls scheduled for May 10. PiS’ bid to hold the polls through postal voting amid the COVID-19 crisis was viewed as a desperate attempt to get incumbent president Andrzej Duda re-elected and also significantly affected the government’s anti-COVID-19 policies.
On May 5, the opposition-dominated Polish Senate had vetoed the decision to conduct presidential polls by postal ballot. However, on May 7, the PiS-dominated lower house, Sejm, ratified the holding of the polls through postal voting, albeit on a later date.
Regarding the impact of the move on the government’s handling of the ongoing pandemic, Razem, a partner in the Polish Left coalition Lewica, said, “we wasted a month and a half on political games initiated by the Rightwing camp. While they had been plotting for the elections, Poles were losing their jobs, hundreds of thousands of companies fell, and unemployment is rising in the country due to COVID-19.
The Polish trade unions, including WZZ Walka, and parties like the Communist Party of Poland (KPP) had criticized the government’s decision to conduct the presidential polls amid the lockdown, particularly through postal voting.
On April 6, Bartosz Bieszczad from the Communist Party of Poland (KPP) told Peoples Dispatch that the government’s haste in advancing the elections was because “The response of the government [to the pandemic] has anyway been delayed and inefficient.” He alleged that, “The Polish state, which has been continuously dismantled since 1989 by every government, is unprepared to face the reality of the pandemic. It is likely that the following months will expose its gross inefficiency. The PiS is aware of this and the fact that the people will turn against them soon. So they have advanced the elections.”
As of May 7, around 15,047 people have contracted COVID-19 in Poland and 755 people have died.