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English Section

Polish senators reject postal ballot bill

06.05.2020 07:30
Polish senators have rejected a plan for citizens to elect the country’s president by a mail-in vote later this month.
A session of the upper house of Polands parliament, the Senate, as seen on a television screen in Warsaw on Tuesday.
A session of the upper house of Poland's parliament, the Senate, as seen on a television screen in Warsaw on Tuesday.Photo: PAP/Radek Pietruszka

The lower house of Poland’s parliament, controlled by the country’s ruling conservatives, last month passed a bill under which presidential elections would be held by postal vote amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The Senate, the opposition-controlled upper chamber of the legislature, on Tuesday evening voted 50-35, with one abstention, to defeat the bill.

Poland's upper-house Speaker Tomasz Grodzki. Photo: PAP/Radek Pietruszka Poland's upper-house Speaker Tomasz Grodzki. Photo: PAP/Radek Pietruszka

The legislation now reverts to the lower house for a final vote in which conservative deputies are expected to attempt to overturn the Senate's rejection so that the postal ballot can go ahead.

As it stands, Poland’s presidential elections are due to take place on May 10, with a potential second round scheduled for May 24, following an announcement earlier this year by Sejm Speaker Elżbieta Witek.

But with election day fast approaching, the head of the National Electoral Commission (PKW), Sylwester Marciniak, said in a statement on Tuesday that the presidential election could not be held on May 10 “for legal and organisational reasons.”

Sylwester Marciniak, head of Poland's National Electoral Commission (PKW). Photo: PAP/Rafał Guz Sylwester Marciniak, head of Poland's National Electoral Commission (PKW). Photo: PAP/Rafał Guz

Witek on Tuesday evening told state broadcaster TVP Info she would ask the country’s Constitutional Tribunal the next morning if postponing the election would be constitutional.

Poland's lower-house Speaker Elżbieta Witek. Poland's lower-house Speaker Elżbieta Witek. Photo: PAP/Radek Pietruszka

Meanwhile, opposition politicians have reiterated their appeals for the ballot to be pushed back amid the pandemic.

Poland’s ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party hinted on Monday it may have to delay the May 10 presidential election by a week or two, after criticism that it is putting political gains ahead of public health by pushing ahead with the vote, the Reuters news agency reported.

In a major re-election campaign speech, Polish President Andrzej Duda, an ally of the government, on Friday summed up his first five years in office and outlined his second-term vision for Poland.

Duda’s contenders in the presidential race include centrist Małgorzata Kidawa-Błońska; middle-of-the-road politician Władysław Kosiniak-Kamysz, leader of the rural-based Polish People’s Party (PSL); leftist Robert Biedroń; far-right hopeful Krzysztof Bosak; and celebrity journalist Szymon Hołownia.

A total of 14,431 people have tested positive for the COVID-19 disease in Poland, with 716 deaths from the coronavirus so far, public health officials said on Tuesday afternoon.

(gs/pk)

Source: IAR, PAP