Following yesterday’s vote in the Polish Parliament, where, despite the Coronavirus pandemic, the PiS majority have forced the presidential elections to take place in May, the Socialists and Democrats are alarmed about the deteriorating state of democracy in Poland and the risks for the health of Polish citizens.
Birgit Sippel, S&D spokesperson on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs:
"Following in the footsteps of the Hungarian government, the Polish governing party is trying to use the coronavirus pandemic to further undermine democratic standards and procedures. Jarosław Kaczynski and his PiS party are desperate to keep all power in their hands, willing even to risk their fellow citizens’ health and safety. They are pushing for the presidential elections to take place in the midst of the public health pandemic, neglecting calls from health experts and from the entire opposition to declare a state of emergency and legally postpone the elections. Even public opinion in Poland is widely opposed to the elections taking place in the context of the pandemic and want the Polish government to focus instead on measures to fight the epidemic and support the country’s flailing economy.
"The PiS is playing a dangerous and cynical game that serves only one objective: increasing the chances that its candidate, the incumbent Andrzej Duda, remains president. They know perfectly well that the looming economic and social crisis could annihilate Duda’s chances ofstaying in office."
Juan Fernando López Aguilar, EP rapporteur on Poland and chair of the committee on civil liberties, justice and home affairs, added:
"In the current state of lockdown, people are prevented from gathering and opposition candidates are prevented from campaigning. Meanwhile, President Duda is still on the campaign trail throughout the country, appearing all over the PiS-controlled media. This puts into question the democratic legitimacy and trustworthiness of an election held under such conditions. Moreover, introducing postal voting in a country of 40 million inhabitants is an enormous logistical challenge and will put thousands of people, including postal workers and members of electoral commissions, at risk of infection.
"Besides, the newly adopted measures go against the Code of Good Practice of the Council of Europe Venice Commission, and contradict the 2006 decision of Polish Constitutional Court that forbids any changes to electoral law six months before a vote. The health and lives of Polish citizens and minimum democratic standards require that these elections be postponed.
"We are waiting to see what the Polish Senate will do now. We also remind Commissioner Reynders of his full commitment to assess whether all measures taken by member states in the context of the Coronavirus pandemic are in line with the rule of law, fundamental rights and democracy."