Poland plans to propose mail-only presidential election, sources say

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Poland plans to propose mail-only presidential election, sources say
Poland plans to propose mail-only presidential election, sources say :File Photo

Poland coalition plans to propose legislation to allow both postal and in-person voting in a presidential election postponed from last Sunday,sources said.

Planning for the election collapsed at the last minute amid rifts within the coalition and with its opponents over how and when to hold the vote during the coronavirus pandemic.

The coalition’s main member, the nationalist Law and Justice (PiS) party, had sought to hold the ballot on schedule through a mail-only vote, but critics said it was putting political gain ahead of public health.

PiS does not want to delay the presidential election too much as the incumbent, Andrzej Duda, a PiS ally, risks losing his leading position in the polls as the economic fallout from the coronavirus worsens.

Late on Sunday, the electoral commission said the PiS-nominated parliamentary speaker had 14 days to set a new date, which must be within 60 days of the announcement.

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PiS, however, needs the support of its coalition partners and the opposition to amend election rules to allow for some form of postal voting, which it had advocated to mitigate health risks from the pandemic.

Poland has to date only allowed postal voting in exceptional circumstances, such as voter disability. Last week legislation was approved to allow for a mail-only vote, which would be subject to amendment by PiS coalition partners to ensure the vote is legal and fair.

Without opposition and coalition support, PiS risks lengthy parliamentary debate that could undermine its preparations for the election yet again.

The amended draft legislation, expected to be made public on Monday, according to two sources with knowledge of the process, is being put together by members of PiS’ junior coalition partner Accord.

The new rules would allow for “hybrid voting”, essentially allowing voters to choose if they want to vote in-person or by mail, a move that is expected to be supported by the opposition.

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“This seems like a realistic, good and advantageous solution,” one of the sources said.

The draft will also seek to reinforce the role of the National Electoral Commission in organizing elections and allow more candidates to join the presidential ballot.

The coalition is hoping for the approval of Poland’s largest opposition group, the centrist Civic Platform (PO), in order to ensure the legislation is passed quickly, so the presidential election can take place in June or July.

The upper house of parliament, the Senate, is controlled by the opposition and is entitled to hold a piece of legislation for up to 30 days but can vote it through more quickly.