Article originally published on Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, 8 April 2020 – accessible here
The PACE co-rapporteurs for the functioning of democratic institutions in Poland, Pieter Omtzigt (Netherlands, EPP/CD) and Azadeh Rojhan Gustafsson (Sweden, SOC), have expressed their concern at the possibility that the May 2020 Presidential election in Poland will be organised by postal vote during a full lockdown as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, as proposed in a draft law adopted by the Polish Sejm.
“We fully understand the underlying desire of the Polish parliament to protect the democratic process when confronted by the COVID-19 pandemic, but maintaining the Presidential election under the current conditions of full lockdown is not the way to do so,” said the co-rapporteurs. “The current lockdown makes the conduct of a meaningful election campaign impossible. Election campaigns, and an equal playing field for all election contestants, are essential components of democratic elections. Without a meaningful election campaign, the democratic nature of the election is compromised at best.”
“We are therefore concerned that organising these elections under the current circumstances will undermine the legitimacy of the electoral process, and as a result undermine the legitimacy of the new President-elect, irrespective of their outcome,” added the co-rapporteurs.
They noted that according to European standards the electoral framework should not be changed just before the elections, after they have been called. “The recent changes to the Electoral Code enabling these elections to be organised purely via postal vote are understandably very controversial in Poland, and are not even yet approved by the Polish Senate. Given this, we can only recommend that the elections are postponed to the second half of this year, when conditions are hopefully more conducive for the organisation of genuinely democratic elections,” said the co-rapporteurs.
On 28 January the Assembly adopted Resolution 2316 (2020) on the Functioning of Democratic Institutions in Poland in which it decided to open a full monitoring procedure in respect of Poland