Poland: Political and electoral actions of the Polish government under the COVID-19 pandemic

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Author (Corporate)
Publication Date 2020
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Summary :

Reports and analyses on political and electoral actions of the Polish government under the COVID-19 pandemic.

Further information :

Poland was due to hold the first round of its presidential election on May 10th , with incumbent Andrzej Duda, an ally of the ruling nationalist Law and Justice (PiS) party, who is bidding for a second term, well ahead in the polls.

Deputies from Poland’s ruling conservatives have put forward plans to allow all citizens to cast a postal vote in upcoming presidential elections as the country battles the COVID-19 pandemic.

Opposition politicians have called for the presidential ballot, scheduled for May 10, to be postponed. They argue that election campaigning is restricted or has been made impossible by the coronavirus outbreak in Poland.

But members of the ruling Law and Justice party have accused the opposition of playing for time in the hope that the gap will narrow between incumbent conservative President Andrzej Duda and his rivals.

On 6 April 2020, the Sejm of the Republic of Poland passed a bill which requires voting for the presidential election to be carried out by postal voting only. The bill was sent to the upper house of Polish parliament for futher processing. Among many law professionals, this solution raises a lot of controversy.

Besides the election, two “citizens’ initiatives” bills were examinated during this time of pandemic. The first would severely limit abortion, and the second, spearheaded by anti-LGBTI groups, would make teaching or even promoting sexuality education to people under 18 a crime punishable with up to three years in prison. Poland’s abortion laws were among the strictest in Europe - it was only allowed in cases of rape or incest, if the mother’s life was at risk, or if the foetus was seriously compromised. The draft legislation would have banned terminations of a foetus if tests show it to be irreversibly damaged, which accounted for around 98% of legal abortions in the country.

The bills under consideration were originally introduced in March 2018 and October 2019, and have since been stalled or not moved forward under the Parliament elected in November 2019. Both had been met by street protests.

Activists feared that conservative politicians could have taken advantage of the coronavirus lockdown preventing opponents from organising large street protests. But if public gatherings were banned, in the streets, people stood around 2m apart and holding placards. Others hung posters on bikes or posted videos online in a "virtual protest".

MPs in Poland decided not to pass two bills seeking to ban sexuality education and further restrict abortion, and instead forwarded them onto subcommittees for further debate, effectively freezing them for the foreseeable future.

The European Parliament passed a resolution on Friday 17 April describing the recent Hungarian and Polish government actions during the coronavirus outbreak as “totally incompatible with European values.” Lawmakers called on the Commission to determine whether Hungary and Poland breached EU law, and urged the Council to put Article 7 procedures back on the agenda. Sanctions under Article 7 of the EU treaty could result is a suspension of voting rights.

Related Link(s)
Commentary and Analysis
Wikipedia: 2020 Polish presidential election https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2020_Polish_presidential_election
Wikipedia: 2020 coronavirus pandemic in Poland https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2020_coronavirus_pandemic_in_Poland
Balkan Insight, 20/03/2020: DEMOCRACY DIGEST: POLAND RESISTS CALLS TO DELAY ELECTION https://balkaninsight.com/2020/03/20/democracy-digest-poland-resists-calls-to-delay-election/
EUObserver, 27/03/2020: Poland's sham presidential election in a pandemic https://euobserver.com/opinion/147887
TVN24, 06/04/2020: Sejm pushes postal voting for presidential election after PiS ordered party discipline https://tvn24.pl/tvn24-news-in-english/poland-pushes-postal-vote-for-presidential-election-coronavirus-deaths-up-4545879
TVN24, 07/04/2020: Rights watchdogs concerned with Poland's push to hold presidential election despite epidemic https://tvn24.pl/tvn24-news-in-english/polish-parliament-backs-postal-ballot-to-pick-president-despite-rights-groups-concerns-4547631
BBC News, 07/04/2020: Poland plans May election despite pandemic https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-52199897
Financial Times, 12/04/2020: EU must call out the follies of Poland’s Covid-19 election https://www.ft.com/content/b1a6457c-7a5c-11ea-bd25-7fd923850377
Amnesty International: Press Release,14/04/2020: Poland: Abortion ban and regressive sexuality education laws must not be rushed through under cover of covid-19 https://www.amnesty.org/en/press-releases/2020/04/poland/
Human Rights Watch, 14/04/2020: Poland: Reject New Curbs on Abortion, Sex Ed https://www.hrw.org/news/2020/04/14/poland-reject-new-curbs-abortion-sex-ed
BBC News, 15/04/2020: Poland abortion: Protesters against ban defy coronavirus lockdown https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-52301875
Amnesty International: Press Release, 16/04/2020: Poland: Lockdown protests force "freeze" on retrogressive bills on abortion and sex education https://www.amnesty.org/en/press-releases/2020/04/poland-lockdown-protests-force-freeze-on-retrogressive-bills-on-abortion-and-sex-education/
Radio Poland, 16/04/2020: Polish ambassador to UK addresses letter to Financial Times https://www.polskieradio.pl/395/7785/Artykul/2493200
EurActiv, 17/04/2020: EP condemns Hungary and Poland’s controversial coronavirus moves https://www.euractiv.com/section/justice-home-affairs/news/ep-condemns-hungarys-and-polands-controversial-coronavirus-moves/

News
Poll of polls: Poland - 2020 presidential election https://www.politico.eu/europe-poll-of-polls/poland/
EurActiv, 13/03/2020: Polish PiS party proposes to change electoral rules ahead of May elections https://www.euractiv.com/section/health-consumers/short_news/update-poland-covid-19/1441803/
Reuters, 28/03/2020: Poland's PiS change electoral rules ahead of presidential vote https://www.reuters.com/article/-idUSKBN21F0AA
Radio Poland, 31/03/2020: Bill proposes postal vote for all citizens in Polish presidential elections https://www.polskieradio.pl/395/7784/Artykul/2484494
The Guardian, 01/04/2020: Polish government still planning to hold presidential election https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/apr/01/polish-government-still-planning-to-hold-presidential-election
Radio Poland, 02/04/2020: Poland’s presidential elections by postal vote only? https://www.polskieradio.pl/395/7784/Artykul/2485838
Radio Poland, 06/04/2020: UPDATE: Polish deputy PM quits amid spat over election https://www.polskieradio.pl/395/7784/Artykul/2487977
Radio Poland, 06/04/2020: Polish MPs back rules to hold presidential election by postal vote only https://www.polskieradio.pl/395/7784/Artykul/2488251
EurActiv, 08/04/2020: Polish parliament backs postal ballot to pick president despite rights groups’ concerns https://www.euractiv.com/section/elections/news/polish-parliament-backs-postal-ballot-to-pick-president-despite-rights-groups-concerns/
EurActiv, 15/04/2020: Poland debates abortion rights curbs, coronavirus limits protests https://www.euractiv.com/section/elections/news/poland-debates-abortion-rights-curbs-coronavirus-limits-protests/
The Guardian, 16/04/2020: Polish parliament delays decision on new abortion restrictions https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/apr/16/polish-parliament-delays-decision-on-new-abortion-restrictions
Radio Poland, 17/04/2020: Poland's COVID-19 cases rise to 8,214, deaths up to 318: health ministry https://www.polskieradio.pl/395/7789/Artykul/2493656

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