With the COVID-19 epidemic in full strength, and despite numerous instances where the epidemic disrupts the regular election flow
the single-majority PiS government pushes for organization of the presidential election on May 10th. As means of "ensuring the health and safety of the voters" they have decided to organize an absentee ballot amidst the epidemic lock down, something which has never been tried in post war Poland. In this effortpost I would like to briefly point out why this farce is unlawful, unconstitutional and pretty much amounts to another power grab by PiS and the de facto ruler of the country: Jarosław Kaczyński. The absentee ballot has never been tried in Poland and is issued solely to benefit PiS
Absentee voting, while technically possible in Polish law requires amendments to the Electoral Codex, a bill regulating how the elections should be organized.The PiS-proposed amendment was to allow the elderly (60+) and people under quarantine to vote with ballot cards delivered by mail. This move is a sinister way of boosting PiS's outcome: it has a significant majority among the 60+ year-olds while simultaneously boosting this groups turnout.
This doesn't sound so bad, right? This issue wasn't voted separately but rather as an article in a broad bill of anti-covid countermeasures
including changes in how the health system operates and an article that allowed issuing loans to businesses. This effectively split the opposition vote, and allowed the vote to pass. Oh, and it was voted on 2AM, as PiS usually does with unpopular bills.
Also, the changes in the Electoral Codex were made known to the opposition 10 minutes before the vote, as part of 79 pages of other amendments. This is how PiS introduces bills.
All of this happened on March 31, and since then the epidemic has been getting worse, so the government decided to extend the absentee ballot to every voter. The vote was carried out on April 6h. At first, PiS lost the vote just for the marshal of the Sejm (who conducts the parliamentary session) to alter the order of the day include another vote for a bill introducing common absentee vote, also authored by PiS.PiS won the second vote without problem
. If you think this is borderline criminal,well, it is, but PiS has done worse in the past like canceling a vote they lost
. Sidenote: how law is passed in Poland
Poland has a two chamber government with the lower chamber called Sejm and the upper chamber called the Senate. New bills can be given to vote either by the parliamentary party MPs, by the members of the senate, by the president or as a citizen initiative when enough signatures are gathered.
When a bill is part of a parliamentary session's order it is voted on by the MPs in Sejm. Votes other than constitutional amendments require single majority (which PiS currently) has. After the bill is passed by the Sejm it is given to the Senate, which can introduce it's own changes to the bill. The bill then returns to the Sejm, which can overrule the changes with single majority. Afterwards the bill is signed by the President and is in effect or the president can veto a bill. The veto can be overruled by the Sejm with single majority.
If you think that what PiS does is criminal and possibly unconstitutional, well it is, but there exists another body who's job is to make sure all the bills passed are constitutional. The Constitutional Court, however, is currently (unlawfully and unconstitutionally) staffed by PiS supporters, so every bill PiS introduces can effectively break every article of the constitution. The election is unconstitutional: it is not universal Paragraph 1 of article 127
of the Polish Constitution says: The President of the Republic shall be elected by the Nation, in universal, equal and direct elections, conducted by secret ballot.
The "election" on May 10th is not universal. The actual ballot papers are going to be delivered by mail via state-owned Polish Post (PP). This poses sever problems: the PP needs to have a list of voter addresses from the Voter Registry, which is something the municipalities (the lowest administrative division) gathers. The PP has asked each municipality to provide such list and send it as a plain txt file, archived without password protection via an unencrypted email to the PP's email address
. Several municipalities (mainly the ones with opposition local government) pointed out this looks like a Nigerian Prince Scam and denied the request, citing GDPR as the reason.This didn't stop PiS however, as they have given PP voter data from the PESEL database
. This, while also violating GDPR poses another problem: the resident address from this database is very often incorrect. When moving to a different city in Poland, in order to vote in local voting stations, you register in the local governmental office and are added to the Voter Registry. Otherwise a citizen is supposed to vote in the municipality from the PESEL database.There are over 8 million
Polish Citizen voting in municipalities different than their resident ones each election. This is most likely the first instance of voter suppression in modern-day Poland. The election is unconstitutional: it is not equal
Covid-19 epidemic required the introduction of several restrictions, like for instance a ban of public gatherings. This effectively made campaigning impossible for every single candidate, except the president in office Andrzej Duda.
Andrzej Duda has numerous times visited hospitals and factories producing medical equipment and disinfectant gel. Duda has stated he did it not as part of his campaign but rather as a presidential obligation. State owned TVP under PiS notriously partisan
(check this link it is in English) and spews lies and allegations against other candidates. The current state of affairs does not allow to have a fair presidential race, as such the election can't be considered to be equal. The election is unconstitutional: it is not direct
The absentee ballot is not direct by definition, and as stated before: over 8 million people won't be getting ballot cards on their proper address. That also means 8 million ballot cards will be given to seemingly random people. I fully expect to get the voting cards for the daughter of my landlady as well as the one for her husband, since they are both residents in the apartment I am renting at the moment according to the PESEL db. This is a clear recipe for a mass voter fraud. The election is unconsitutinal: the ballot is not secret
Disregarding the fact that the ballot cards actually leaked yesterday,
each voter is supposed to include a signed consent form that the ballot card was indeed filled in by the citizen themself. This poses a significant risk of government invigilation and PiS is known for it's authoritarian tendencies. Many people are simply afraid to vote fearing that the government will track people who are not their supporters. The election is a public safety catastrophe
Nobody really knows the technicalities of how the voting is going to be organized, but with how to current absentee ballot bill is written, the postman is supposed to deliver the ballot card and the consent form to each individual voter by hand, which means checking their identity each time. I don't need to point out that this is a massive disease spread vector which will most likely infect the majority of the population. Nobody really believes this part will be fulfilled however (which speaks volumes about the state of unlawfulness we are right now).
What is almost certain however is that there will be one ballot box, or sender mailbox per municipality.
Normally there are several voting stations, each servicing a set number of voters from nearby residencies. I don't need to tell how bad of an idea this is. Why do you care? Poland doesn't have a presidential system
You are right, but a president is still plays a tremendously important role in how law is passed in Poland. The president has a right to veto bills, which Duda, a PiS marionette never did, he has a right of introducing his own bills to vote, and he has a constitutional obligation to appoint several important figures, including the judges of the Constitutional Court.PiS's march through institutions fueled by numerous unconstitutional bills started with Andrzej Duda disregarding his obligation to appoint several judges of the Constitutional Court,
effectively giving PiS-supporting members a majority. The current legislative chaos is Poland is all due to the president's meddling and a President is needed to fix it. So who is actually running?
Pretty much Andrzej Duda, as he is the only possible winner. There are 10 candidates: Andrzej Duda
- the president in office, 47 years old, PhD in Law, running as an independent but is clearly a PiS asset. Duda while obviously subservient to Jarosław Kaczyński is remarkably popular in Poland: before the epidemics he was leading the second candidate by more than 15pp. His popularity is due to his good public speaking skills and him being a face of many memes
(another reason meme culture should be destroyed). Małgorzata Kidawa-Błońska
- the candidate of the Civic Coalition, which is a coalition list of center right Civic Platform (party of Donald Tusk, ruling party for 8 years), the Modern party (center right party created by a student of Leszek Balcerowicz: the closest to a neoliberal party Poland ever got), the Green party (center left, plankton level of overall approval) and Initiative Poland (center left, also plankton level). Kidawa-Błońska was chosen as a candidate solely because she has never been an active face of her party, and the state-owned TVP has little dirt on her. She officially withdrew from the race, and her approval right now is bordering 6%. Szymon Hołownia
- an independent candidate. His campaign is financed mostly by anonymous donations and Dominika Kulczyk, daughter of Jerzy Kulczyk, the richest businessman in Poland, recently deceased. Szymon Hołownia is well known in Poland as host of Polish version of America Got Talent. A devoted, yet modernist catholic, he works as a journalist. Hołownia has recently seen a massive surge in popularity due to his effective social media campaign. Robert Biedroń
- candidate of the United Left. Biedroń is the first openly-gay Polish MP. He is widely liked by the younger voters for his charming disposition and his progressive views. During previous EU election he launched his own party called Spring which is pretty centrist, with some awful takes like skepticism towards nuclear power. Biedroń is hated by Polish online tankies. Władysław Kosinak-Kamysz
- candidate of the Polish Coalition, which is a coalition list of Polish People's Party (rural/farmer party, the oldest Party in Poland with really strong presence in local governments) and Kukiz15 (protest vote party composed of multiple groups including independents, nationalists and local politicians led by Paweł Kukiz, a punk rock musician). Kosiniak-Kamysz is slightly conservative, well educated, and a supreme public speaker. He is also a close friend of Donald Tusk. He would make a great president, however, due to his affiliation with anti-establishment nutjobs from Kukiz he has some awful takes regarding the social security system and referendum votes. Krzysztof Bosak -
candidate of the Confederacy, which is a coalition vote of the worst in humanity: conservative liberals, nationalists, clerical anti-EU nutjobs, anti-vaxxers and many, many more. Bosak is young, tech-savvy, speaks meme culture well, is fiercely clerical and conservative. He is also the de-facto candidate of Ordo Iuris, a group of conservative lawyers hellbent on banning abortion, gender reassignment procedures, sexual education and limiting divorces. Bosak has minimal support in the overall population, however, he has about 20% among youngest voters. Stanisław Żółtek
- candidate of the Congress of the New Right, which is a party about 90% of the population never heard of, created by this idiot
. Conservative, Tea-Party Minimal Government, anti-EU, largely unelectable. Marek Jakubiak
- candidate of the Federation for the Republic. Former Kukiz15 MP, he is a millionaire owner of a beer brewery. Conservative, clerical, anti-LGBT and anti EU. His candidacy in this election is also largely unlawful, since he managed to amass the required 100,000 voter signatures necessary to enter the race in two weeks during an epidemic and has stated that some of them were fake. Mirosław Piotrowski
- candidate of the True Europe Movement, also known as Europa Christi. National-Catholic, the guy is virtually unknown anywhere. His party is sponsored and patroned by Taduesz Rydzyk, a priest and the owner of Radio Maryja media empire, a catholic right wing propaganda center closely associated with PiS. Paweł Tanajno
- an independent candidate. Tanajno is basically a meme, participating in pretty much every election. He is anti-establishment, pro direct democracy, and overall doing it all for the lulz. His biggest electoral success was getting 2% of votes 5 years ago. Conclusion: no, this is a farce, not an election
What I have gathered here are the most immediate problems with what will happen in Poland next week. There are many, many more problems with this voting procedure (I avoid using the word election here) and with overall political situation in Poland.
I leave with a message from Donlad Tusk who says to boycott this farce https://youtu.be/dKIGFnThG_w