Poland postpones presidential vote amid coronavirus lockdown

The leader of Poland’s governing party and a partner in its governing coalition announced an agreement late on Wednesday to postpone Sunday’s presidential election, without setting a new date for the poll.

Jaroslaw Kaczynski, head of the ruling Law and Justice party, and Jaroslaw Gowin, leader of a small party in the conservative coalition, announced in a joint statement that they had agreed to cancel Sunday’s vote and set a new date.

They called their decision “a solution that will guarantee Poles the opportunity to participate in democratic elections.”

The decision brought some clarity to a chaotic situation that left Poles uncertain about whether they would be casting votes this weekend.

The May 10 date had been set months ago, but the coronavirus pandemic and a government-ordered lockdown threw preparations into disarray.

Bitter fighting between the conservative governing party and its political opponents kept them from agreeing on an alternative.

The governing party had sought to stick to the election date by making it a postal vote, but proper legislation was still not approved. Many in Poland voiced concerns that such a vote organised at short notice might not be conducted property or meet democratic standards for fairness.

A disagreement between Kaczynski and Gowin had also created a impasse that had threatened to cause an larger political crisis. Their joint statement suggested the crisis had been averted.

Under their plan, after Sunday the Supreme Court will declare the election void because it does not happen, and then parliament Speaker Elzbieta Witek will announce a “new presidential election to be held on the first possible date.”

They did not indicate when that might be.

Under a constitutionally dictated timeline, the last possible date for the presidential election in 2020 would be on May 23. But they said they would amend legislation regulating elections in 2020, which might suggest a later date. The vote will be conducted by postal ballot.

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