Zero turnout as Poland holds bizarre ghost election

WARSAW (AFP) – Poland’s election day yesterday will be one for the history books as polling stations remained closed and turnout was zero due to a political crisis set off by the coronavirus pandemic.

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

“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. The right-wing Law and Justice (PiS) party 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.

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 per cent of the vote.