Poland’s election planning must bring together all parties, bishops urge

CNA Staff, May 5, 2020 / 10:00 am (CNA).- Poland’s bishops have intervened in a debate about whether presidential elections scheduled for May 10 should go ahead despite a nationwide lockdown.

A statement from the permanent council of the Polish bishops’ conference April 27 urged politicians to work together to ensure that the election would be regarded as legitimate by all sides. 

It said: “We appeal to the consciences of those responsible for the common good of our homeland, both those in power and the opposition, to work out a common position on the presidential elections in this extraordinary situation.” 

Poland’s ruling coalition, led by the Law and Justice (PiS) party, has rejected calls to postpone the election, due to take place this Sunday. 

The state began introducing lockdown measures March 10, which it is now starting to lift. Poland, which has a population of almost 38 million, had 14,242 documented coronavirus cases and 700 deaths as of May 5, according to Johns Hopkins University Coronavirus Resource Center.

The Polish Senate began debating legislation May 5 that would allow the election to be held by postal vote, rather than at polling stations, due to the pandemic. 

The Sejm, the lower chamber of the Polish parliament, will have the final say on the legislation. 

The bishops called on lawmakers to resolve the issue while upholding the principles of Poland’s constitution. They emphasized that they were not seeking to engage in “purely political disputes over the form or timing of election, let alone to advocate this or that solution.”

The bishops’ permanent council said: “We encourage dialogue between the parties to seek solutions that would not raise legal doubts and suspicion, not only of a violation of the current constitutional order but also of the principles of free and fair elections adopted in a democratic society.”

“We ask that, guided by the best will, they would seek in their actions the common good, which today is expressed both by the life, health and social existence of Poles, as well as broad social trust in the electoral procedures of a democratic state jointly developed over the years.”

The bishops continued: “In this difficult situation that we are experiencing, we should take care to cultivate a mature democracy, protect the nation of laws, building — despite differences — a culture of solidarity, also in the political sphere.”

If parliament approves the postal vote, the government could delay the vote to either May 17 or May 23 to allow more preparation time, according to Reuters

Opinion polls suggest the incumbent President Andrzej Duda, a PiS ally, would be re-elected by a significant margin if the vote were held soon. 

Bishops’ conference president Archbishop Stanisław Gądecki entrusted Poland to the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus and to Our Lady, Queen of Poland, at Jasna Góra Monastery in Częstochowa May 3.

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