72ºF

Polish leader insists on May vote, even if delayed slightly

FILE - In this file photo dated Wednesday, March 4, 2020, Prime Minister of Poland Mateusz Morawiecki arrives for a press conference during a V-4 summit in Prague, Czech Republic.  Morawiecki said Wednesday April 29, 2020, that Poland's presidential election must be held in May despite the coronavirus pandemic, but the May 10 date of the vote may be pushed back by a week or two. (AP Photo/Petr David Josek, FILE)
FILE - In this file photo dated Wednesday, March 4, 2020, Prime Minister of Poland Mateusz Morawiecki arrives for a press conference during a V-4 summit in Prague, Czech Republic. Morawiecki said Wednesday April 29, 2020, that Poland's presidential election must be held in May despite the coronavirus pandemic, but the May 10 date of the vote may be pushed back by a week or two. (AP Photo/Petr David Josek, FILE) (Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

WARSAW – Poland’s prime minister said Wednesday that the presidential election must be held in May despite the coronavirus pandemic to meet the requirements of the constitution.

Mateusz Morawiecki said, however, that the May 10 election date may be pushed back by a week or two.

“Constitutional experts say that the election is also possible on successive dates: May 17 or May 23," Morawiecki said.

“We will be taking the decision in the nearest future,” he said.

The ruling conservative Law and Justice party is pushing for the May vote by postal ballot only, driven by the fact that its candidate, President Andrzej Duda, is leading in opinion polls. It argues voting by mail is safe.

But it has also empowered the parliamentary speaker to alter the May 10 date. Duda's term expires Aug. 6.

The opposition wants the vote pushed back by a year or two, raising concerns for society's health and the fact that under anti-COVID-19 restrictions their candidates have had no chance to properly campaign and meet voters. All its candidates are trailing in opinion polls behind Duda, who frequently appears on state media.

With less than two weeks to the election, the bill formally regulating procedures for the vote still hasn't been adopted in parliament, raising questions about whether the balloting can be held as planned.

The European Union and pro-democracy organizations have voiced concerns whether Poland's first-ever postal election held under anti-coronavirus restrictions will be fully democratic, free and transparent.

But European Commission Vice President Vera Jourova said Wednesday it was up to Polish authorities and public debate to decide the best way to hold a free and fair election.

But, she added: “If I were a Polish citizen I would have many questions, because I would really like to have fair access to the voting. I would like to see the candidates campaigning in a fair campaign time. I think that these are the questions especially which should be asked on Polish territory.”