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English Section

Polish MPs overturn Senate’s rejection of postal ballot bill

07.05.2020 10:45
In a final vote, Polish lawmakers on Thursday definitively approved a plan for citizens to elect the country’s president by a mail-in ballot later this year.  
The lower house of Polands parliament is in session in Warsaw on Thursday morning amid coronavirus precautions.
The lower house of Poland’s parliament is in session in Warsaw on Thursday morning amid coronavirus precautions.Photo: PAP/Wojciech Olkuśnik

Polish MPs on Thursday morning voted 236-213, with 11 abstentions, to override an earlier rejection of the bill by the upper house of parliament, the Senate.

Photo: PAP/Wojciech Olkuśnik Photo: PAP/Wojciech Olkuśnik

The legislation, which the country’s ruling conservatives say aims to keep voters safe amid the coronavirus pandemic, now goes to the president for signing into law.

Thursday's vote in the lower house came after the heads of two parties in the country’s ruling coalition said late on Wednesday that Poland’s presidential elections, scheduled for May 10, would be held at a later date by postal ballot amid the coronavirus.

They added in a statement that lower-house Speaker Elżbieta Witek “will announce new presidential elections on the first possible date.”

The statement was issued jointly by Jarosław Kaczyński, leader of the conservative Law and Justice (PiS) party, and Jarosław Gowin, whose Agreement grouping is a junior partner in the governing coalition.

Jarosław Kaczyński and Jarosław Gowin. Photo: PAP/Leszek Szymański Jarosław Kaczyński and Jarosław Gowin. Photo: PAP/Leszek Szymański

Gowin told reporters on Thursday morning that experts were set to begin work to modify the new postal ballot rules to guarantee “safe, fully democratic and transparent elections."

A new date for the ballot was not immediately clear.

Opposition politicians have called for the presidential election to be pushed back amid the pandemic.

Gowin last month quit his government job as a deputy prime minister and minister of science and higher education amid a dispute over whether the country should hold a presidential election in the midst of a virus epidemic.

The head of the National Electoral Commission (PKW), Sylwester Marciniak, said this week that the presidential election could not be held on May 10 “for legal and organisational reasons.”

A total of 14,898 people have tested positive for the COVID-19 disease in Poland, with 737 deaths from the coronavirus so far, officials said on Thursday morning.

On Wednesday evening, Polish presidential contenders locked horns in a televised debate.

During the debate, incumbent Andrzej Duda and nine rivals fielded a variety of questions from an anchor, while also trading jabs over topics such as foreign policy, the economy, military and energy security, European affairs and gay rights.

Polish President Andrzej Duda. Photo: PAP/Paweł Supernak Polish President Andrzej Duda. Photo: PAP/Paweł Supernak

In a major re-election campaign speech, Polish President Andrzej Duda last week 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.

Poland's conservative Law and Justice party, allied with two smaller groupings in a United Right coalition, won the country's parliamentary election in October and secured a second term in power.

It maintained a majority in the 460-seat lower house, the Sejm, but narrowly lost control of the 100-seat upper house.

The upper house has power to initiate legislation, and it can also defeat bills approved by the lower house. The Sejm needs to muster an absolute majority to override Senate amendments.


Source: IAR, PAP