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Zero turnout as Poland holds bizarre ghost election

In this file photo taken on April 29, 2020, an election poster of President Andrzej Duda and a letter box are seen on a fence of private house near Warsaw on April 29, 2020.

In this file photo taken on April 29, 2020, an election poster of President Andrzej Duda and a letter box are seen on a fence of private house near Warsaw on April 29, 2020.   | Photo Credit: AFP

The EU member of 38 million people found itself in this bizarre “Twilight Zone” predicament in which the presidential ballot was formally neither postponed nor cancelled

Poland's election day Sunday was one for the history books, as polling stations remain closed and turnout will clock in at zero due to a political crisis set off by the coronavirus pandemic.

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The EU member of 38 million people found itself in this bizarre “Twilight Zone” predicament in which the presidential ballot was formally neither postponed nor cancelled, because the government and opposition were unable to agree on a constitutional and safe solution.

“Today's the day, election day without the election,” leftist lawmaker Tomasz Trela wrote on Facebook, after organising a media event in the central city of Lodz to express his dismay at the situation.

Mr. Trela and a fellow politician from the Left coalition showed up with homemade ballots at a school that is normally used as a polling station and asked why they were unable to vote.

“The polling station is closed, which means someone cancelled the election. But it's unclear who did or on what basis,” he told reporters.

The anti-government protest movement Citizens of Poland organised an event in the capital Warsaw, saying Poland needs to be rebuilt from the ground up.

Legal absurdity

“The state is unable to carry out the election scheduled for today. Or the voting or whatever you want to call it, this cabaret that they've arranged for us,” movement co-leader Pawel Kasprzak told reporters.

Also on Sunday, Left lawmaker Krzysztof Gawkowski extended a public invitation to every political grouping in parliament to join a roundtable on “how to carry out a fair and honest election.”

Most of the opposition parties have already agreed to meet Wednesday, while far-right party Confederation is mulling its response.

The governing right-wing Law and Justice (PiS) party does not plan to take part, the Polish news agency PAP reported.

“We're in a fog of legal absurdity,” Warsaw-based political scientist Stanislaw Mocek told AFP, echoing the widespread head-scratching and concern.

The government “should have declared a natural disaster to lawfully postpone the election” under the constitution, he added.

The PiS has explained away its refusal to do so by saying Poland's coronavirus situation is not severe enough to warrant the move.

The party has also implied that were it to declare a natural disaster, multinational corporations present in Poland would claim huge sums in compensation that the state would be hard-pressed to pay.

But the liberal opposition and many observers also see another rationale for why the government was set on the May 10 date, despite opinion surveys showing that three out of four Poles wanted a deferral.

Null and void

The opposition, which has long called for a delay over concerns that a free, fair and safe election is impossible under lockdown, believes the PiS wants the ballot held as soon as possible so that its ally and incumbent Andrzej Duda wins.

The president is the current frontrunner and could secure a second term in the first round with 50 percent of the vote, but his support would likely drop once the economic effects of the pandemic are felt.

Last month, the PiS-controlled parliament passed a law stating the election would be held by postal vote only in a bid to quiet health concerns while maintaining the date.

But the opposition-controlled senate sat on the legislation for weeks before rejecting it, leaving the government no time to organise the election.

Last week, the PiS and its allied Agreement party announced that the poll would be declared null and void after the fact.

“After the May 10, 2020 date passes and the Supreme Court annuls the election as expected in light of the fact that the vote will not have taken place, the speaker of parliament will announce a new presidential election for the first available date,” they said in a statement.

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Printable version | Aug 3, 2020 6:28:34 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/international/zero-turnout-as-poland-holds-bizarre-ghost-election/article31553231.ece

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