We finally have a new date for Poland’s delayed presidential election, which technically went ahead on May 10th but which was annulled as no polling stations where actually open due to the Coronavirus crisis. On Wednesday morning the Sejm Speaker, Elżbieta Witek, announced that the first round of voting will take place on Sunday, June 28th, with the second round, assuming no candidate wins more than 50% of the vote in the first round, scheduled for two weeks later on Sunday, July 12th.
The announcement of the new date came after incumbent President Andrzej Duda on Tuesday signed into law the bill passed by the Sejm earlier the same day to allow the election to take place under a hybrid voting system which gives people the choice of traditional in-person voting at a polling station or a postal ballot. The measure had cleared the Senate on a 94-1 vote with four abstentions late on Monday.
Andrzej Duda, going on the opinion polls, looks to be well ahead in the first round, but is very unlikely to take over half the vote. The question will then be how well the combined non-Prawo i Sprawiedliwość vote coalesces behind his ultimate challenger on the second ballot.
The delay in the holding of the election, caused largely by the refusal of the now former Deputy Prime Minister Jarosław Gowin and his Porozumienie party, to join the rest of the ruling bloc in supporting Prawo i Sprawiedliwość’s original proposal for an all-postal ballot, has afforded the main opposition party, Platforma Obywatelska, the opportunity to replace their original candidate, Małgorzata Kidawa-Błońska, who had been trailing badly in the polls, with Warszawa Mayor, Rafał Trzaskowski. As of now he looks best placed to be Duda’s second round challenger.
As Poland continues the process of emerging from the Coronavirus restrictions, public health officials said on Wednesday morning that the total number of people who’ve tested positive for Covid-19 stands at 24,545, with 1,102 deaths being attributed to the virus. Of the 150 new cases 78 were in the southern coal producing region of Silesia, where there’s been a particular issue in the mines, as indeed there has also been on the Czech side of the border as we heard last week from Ája Horáčková.
On Monday it was reported that a statue of the Polish and American independence hero Tadeusz Kościuszko in Washington DC was vandalised by protestors during the widespread unrest over the death in police custody of George Floyd. Poland’s ambassador to the United States, Piotr Wilczek said in a tweet that he was ‘disgusted and appalled by the acts of vandalism committed against the status of Thaddeus Kościuszko in DC, a hero who fought for the independence of both the US and Poland’.
Meanwhile on Tuesday, U.S. President Donald Trump and his wife Melania laid a wreath at a monument to the late Polish born Pope, St. John Paul II. Last month was the 100th anniversary of this birth on May 18th, 1920. The monument is in front of the St. John Paul II National Shrine in Washington.
The conservative news weekly Sieci has claimed that its journalists have uncovered ‘shocking’ scenarios about how Poland ‘could be forced to fend off Russian aggression’. The article entitled ‘Poland in Danger’ written by Marek Budzisz cites reports by U.S. officials on ‘new generation warfare’ suggesting that Poland must be prepared to defend itself against a potential attack. A Polish security expert told Sieci that Russia is seeking to destabilise Poland through the use of propaganda and false news stories.
On Wednesday Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki attended the funeral in Warszawa of the mother of the youngest victim of martial law in Poland. Krystyna Barchańska was buried in a grave next to her son Emil, who died in 1982. He’s believed to have been murdered by the communist era Służba Bezpieczeństwa or SB security service, having been involved in defacing a statue of the Bolshevik revolutionary Felix Dzerzhinsky.
Monday, June 1st, was national children’s day Dzień Dziecka in Poland, which marks the traditional beginning of summer and has been celebrated since 1952. The day also marks the importance of children’s rights. Polish children across Ireland joined in the celebration with a beautiful online video for their Irish friends featuring 30 of them who’ve grown up in Ireland. In the video, posted on Twitter by the Polish embassy, the children shared some Polish traditions and history because quote ‘we also want to cheer you up a bit under the lockdown’, saying that ‘Poland is the country of castles and palaces, it is where kings and queens used to live for centuries’ adding that Polish legends ‘are the best’ because ‘they are all true’. The children said that ‘we love going to Poland and we hope you’ll join us for our next trip’.
An optimistic note on which to end!