As Poland voted for a new president on Sunday, my Twitter feed became populated by a surreal mix of people. Some had very strong opinions about the relative merits of jam and custard. Others just seemed determined to show the world their feet. “My daughter wanted custard for breakfast. I told her this was embarrassing and suggested some delicious jam sandwiches,” one internet user informed his followers. “[Walking barefoot] is so nice,” tweeted another, adding a picture of her bright red toenails for good measure. “It can be so healthy and beneficial for the whole nation.” Welcome to the bizarre alternative reality of Poland’s election day “bazaar”, where pre-internet-era electoral rules confront the anarchy of social media. Poland has strict rules prohibiting political “agitation” on polling day and for 24 hours before. Banned acts include urging support for a candidate, holding political rallies and publishing opinion polls. But social media gleefully dodges these rules. Instead of urging people to back candidates, users write about the benefits of various types of food that are in some way linked to them. And instead of posting leaked exit polls or partial results, they post shopping lists with “prices” representing the candidates’ alleged vote share.
Poland: Poland Is Showing the World How Not to Run a Pandemic Election. Washington Must Not Repeat Warsaw’s Mistakes. | Zselyke Csaky and Sarah Repucci/Foreign Policy
Polish citizens are set to vote in a presidential election later this week, but there is a serious risk that the balloting will be neither free nor fair. The United States should watch closely and do what is necessary to avoid a similar fate in November. Voting during a pandemic is a difficult exercise, as demonstrated by the 52 countries that have already decided to postpone national or local elections because of the coronavirus. Poland is one of the few nations that are forging ahead, and a combination of daunting logistical challenges and unconcealed attempts by the ruling party to turn the situation to its own advantage are seriously eroding trust in the process. On April 6, a month before the scheduled election, the governing Law and Justice (PiS) party rammed legislation through Poland’s lower house of parliament, the Sejm, to introduce nationwide postal voting. Unlike the United States, where the expansion of absentee ballots has been spearheaded by Democrats, in Poland it was the ruling party that championed remote voting as its only chance to hold elections on time. The bill was passed late in the evening amid significant concerns about its content and in defiance of a clear constitutional court decision banning changes to electoral laws less than six months before a vote.
On a chilly Friday evening in Poland’s capital, the mayoral candidate Patryk Jaki took the stage in Praga Park to make a final pitch to voters. The location had symbolic resonance: Warsaw’s Praga district is home to many low-income residents who feel stigmatized and left behind by their increasingly prosperous and cosmopolitan city. This, in turn, helps makes it friendly territory for Jaki’s Law and Justice (PiS), the right-wing Euroskeptic populist party currently in control of Poland. “People from the town hall keep humiliating and spitting on us,” Jaki said, as his supporters chanted to drown out a small group of protesters. “They don’t want us to take over the town hall, because they’re afraid of what we’ll find there.”
Polish President Andrzej Duda on Thursday said he would not sign a law put forward by the ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party that would have effectively meant that no small party in Poland would have a chance at European Parliament elections next year. “I’ve decided to veto this bill. This change would mean that the effective electoral threshold would rise to as much as 16.5 percent from 5 percent,” Duda said on public television.
Poland’s lawmakers have approved a controversial electoral law that critics say will give the ruling party influence over the voting procedure and will allow more room for vote rigging. The lower house voted late Wednesday to approve the legislation that will govern elections, beginning with local elections this fall. It was proposed by the ruling conservative Law and Justice party and is seen as favoring it. The party took power after winning elections in 2015 and immediately set about changing much of Poland’s laws, including those governing the justice system. The changes in the judiciary have drawn strong criticism from European Union leaders who say they threaten Poland’s rule of law, and have opened a procedure that could strip the nation of its EU voting rights. The new electoral law is expected to add to Poland’s conflict with its EU partners.
Changes to an electoral law proposed by Poland’s conservative ruling party are aimed at helping it win local elections next year, opposition leaders said Tuesday. The head of the ruling Law and Justice party, Jaroslaw Kaczynski, who is Poland’s most powerful politician, says he wants new regulations to limit to two the number of terms served by city and town mayors as well as local community heads. He argues it would give opportunities to new candidates and says some local leaders have been in office for decades. “That helps neither democracy nor the good social relations in the given country or town,” Kaczynski has said. “In brief — there is need for change.” But the leaders of two liberal opposition parties said the proposal aims to help Law and Justice take control of local governments, on top of controlling the parliament, the national government and the presidency.
Poland’s incoming ruling party is expected to be a more difficult partner for European governments, particularly on the migrant crisis, after voters in parliamentary elections gave it a strong mandate to stand up to Brussels and Berlin. The opposition Law and Justice party swept to victory with nearly 38% of the vote and looked likely Monday to have enough legislators in the lower house of Parliament to govern on its own, after promising to spend more on welfare, focus on traditional Catholic values and take a more-assertive stance within the European Union. The election on Sunday ended the eight-year rule of the Civic Platform party and its junior ally, a period marked by uninterrupted economic growth and good relations with Germany, but marred by internal struggles and scandals.
Poland consolidated its rightwing shift on Sunday as exit polls showed voters had handed an absolute majority in its parliamentary election to Law and Justice, a Eurosceptic party that is against immigration, wants family-focused welfare spending and has threatened to ban abortion and in-vitro fertilisation. The current ruling party, Civic Platform, conceded defeat following the first exit poll, published by Ipsos moments after polling stations closed at 9pm (8pm GMT), which gave the national conservative Prawo i Sprawiedliwość (Law and Justice party) 39.1% of the vote, putting it far ahead of Civic Platform on 23.4%. Jarosław Kaczyński, Law and Justice’s chairman and the twin brother of Poland’s late president Lech, immediately declared victory. Speaking to supporters at his party headquarters in central Warsaw, a triumphant Kaczynski said: “We will not kick those who have fallen… We need to show that Polish public life can be different.”
Jezowe, a five-hour bus ride from Warsaw, is officially designated an agricultural village. But it is one where the agriculture now tends to take place elsewhere. Jezowe’s fields lie mostly fallow; its workers now seek higher-paid jobs in wealthier European Union countries, harvesting grapes in France and cabbages in Germany. Among the village’s weathered wooden houses stand gaudy villas, paid for with euros earned abroad. “Disneyland,” says one resident, pointing to the turrets and gilded fences. The town’s public buildings, too, have been spruced up, mainly with injections of EU cash. A grant of 525,000 zloty ($140,000) paid for the renovation of the old parsonage, which now houses a museum devoted to carved figurines of Christ. In short, Jezowe has done well by the EU. Yet the village has long backed the right-wing Law and Justice party (PiS), a mildly Eurosceptic and socially conservative party that has been in opposition since 2007. The PiS candidate for president, Andrzej Duda, took a startling 92% of the vote here in an election in May; nationwide, he won with a more modest 52%.
Poland’s general election on Sunday may propel a new nationalist-minded government into European politics, deepening divisions over the migration crisis and straining relations with Berlin, Brussels and Moscow. The Eurosceptic Law and Justice party (PiS), led by former prime minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski, has toned down its anti-EU rhetoric since its first time in power in 2005-07, but diplomats in Brussels are worried that EU decision-making may soon be obstructed by a returning member of the awkward squad. The staunchly conservative Kaczynski has nominated a less combative politician, Beata Szydlo, to be prime minister to lure disgruntled voters of the outgoing pro-European government. But his deep distrust of big European powers, particularly Germany, remains intact and analysts say he is still expected to pull the strings.
Poland: Voter turnout for the government-backed referendum on voting system was less than 8% | Wall Street Journal
Poland’s ruling camp, struggling to capture voters’ attention ahead of a parliamentary election in October, suffered an embarrassment on Monday when the country’s electoral committee said voter turnout in a government-backed referendum over the weekend was less than 8%. It was the lowest turnout for any national vote in Poland’s recent history. The referendum was called by former President Bronislaw Komorowski as he tried to salvage his re-election bid in May. It was endorsed by the upper house of parliament, dominated by senators of Mr. Komorowski’s Civic Platform party. The referendum, which cost about $22 million to organize and yet failed to settle any of the key questions raised by politicians, is a blunder in a country where voters have shown fatigue not only with the eight-year-old ruling camp but also the long-established political parties that have governed the country since 1989.
The leader of Poland’s conservative opposition on Saturday ruled himself out of the running for prime minister in this year’s parliamentary election, and instead nominated a female lawmaker who is considered less divisive. After more than two decades at the forefront of Polish politics, Jaroslaw Kaczynski said he wouldn’t put himself at the center of this year’s campaign, and instead threw his support behind Beata Szydlo. Ms. Szydlo is widely credited with softening the conservative party’s image and, as campaign chief, helping Andrzej Duda secure a five-year term in May’s presidential election.
Polish voters have sent a strong signal that they are unhappy with the country’s direction, apparently unseating the president despite years of fast economic growth and unprecedented stability. According to an exit poll, challenger Andrzej Duda, a rightwing member of the European parliament, won the presidential election on Sunday with 52% of the vote to 48% for the incumbent, Bronisław Komorowski. Official results are expected late on Monday. If Duda’s win is confirmed, it could herald a political shift in the European Union’s sixth largest economy, a nation that has been able to punch above its weight in Europe without belonging to the 19-nation eurozone. Poland’s influence is underlined by the fact that one of its own, Donald Tusk, now heads the European Council in Brussels. The changing political mood could signal a return to power of Duda’s conservative Law and Justice party in parliamentary elections this autumn. That would cement Poland’s turn to the right, create a new dynamic with other European countries and possibly usher in a less welcoming climate for foreign investors.
Poland’s presidential election was supposed to be a cakewalk for popular incumbent Bronisław Komorowski. But instead of coasting to an easy victory, the president finds himself in danger of a stunning defeat in Sunday’s runoff election. Surprising pollsters and his own campaign team, Komorowski lost in the May 10 first round to Andrzej Duda, the candidate of the nationalist Law and Justice party (PiS), who took 33.8 percent of the vote, a percentage point ahead of the incumbent.
Marek Jakubiak’s Polish brewing business has notched up 20 per cent sales growth each year since 2009, riding an economic boom that made Poland Europe’s fastest-growing economy in recent years. So it may seem surprising that Mr Jakubiak wants to throw out the government that steered that course. Yet he and other Poles are threatening to do just that. On Sunday, they will vote in a presidential election that many see as a harbinger of October parliamentary polls that could end almost a decade of rule by a government admired across Europe. Since coming to power in 2007, the Civic Platform party has managed to sidestep the financial crisis that has dragged much of the continent into recession, turning out year after year of gross domestic product growth. But not all Poles appreciate its efforts.
Poland’s presidential election is set for a run off between the conservative opposition candidate and the center-right incumbent, whose departure could lead to a change of political and economic priorities in the European Union’s largest emerging economy. The challenger, Andrzej Duda, scored a surprise victory on Sunday in the first round of voting, taking 34.5% of the vote, according to a late exit poll. President Bronislaw Komorowski, supported by the center-right camp that has ruled Poland for nearly eight years, had hoped to win the race by an outright majority but came second with 33.1%.
Poland: Opposition Candidate Wins First Round of Poland Presidential Elections | Wall Street Journal
A conservative opposition candidate won the first round of voting in Poland’s presidential election, a victory that could herald a change of guard in the European Union’s largest emerging economy. A contentious battle for the country’s presidency is likely in two weeks if the final tally, expected Tuesday, confirms no candidate won more than 50% of the vote. Andrzej Duda, supported by the main opposition party in Poland, the conservative Law and Justice, won 34.8% on Sunday. President Bronislaw Komorowski, supported by the center-right camp that has ruled Poland for nearly eight years, won 32.2% of the vote, according to pollster Ipsos for broadcasters TVP and TVN. A surprise third-strongest candidate, former rock star Pawel Kukiz, won 20.3%, according to the exit poll.
Buoyed by his strong defense background and Poles’ renewed fear of Russia stoked by the Ukraine crisis, Bronislaw Komorowski looks likely to win the first round of Poland’s presidential election on Sunday. How to ensure the security of Poland in the face of events in Ukraine was the paramount question presidential hopefuls had to answer when they gathered in a TV studio this week for a pre-election debate. That issue has preoccupied Poles since Russia’s intervention in neighboring Ukraine last year. While Poland is now a member of the European Union and a staunch NATO ally of the United States, it was under Soviet domination for decades after World War Two and so remains deeply sensitive to any Russian actions in the region.
Poland’s electoral authorities say that the votes in the May presidential election will be counted by hand and calculator because of a lack of a reliable electronic system. The decision by the State Electoral Commission follows a major computer malfunction that largely delayed the vote count in the local government elections last fall. The scandal led to the resignations of most of the commission members.
Thousands of supporters of a conservative opposition party in Poland marched on Saturday to protest the results of recent local elections, which party leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski says were falsified. The November elections were marred by problems, with a computer glitch delaying results and many ballots declared invalid because voters apparently were confused and marked them incorrectly. However, there is no indication they were falsified. Kaczynski’s critics accuse him of making false claims about the election outcome to motivate his base ahead of national elections next year. His supporters marched in Warsaw under the slogan “in the support of democracy,” chanting “repeat the elections.”
During an interview with Radio Maryja, an ultra-Catholic radio station, and then in Poland’s lower house of parliament, Kaczynski made his most forthright comments yet since the results were belatedly released on 22 November. “The elections were falsified,” the Law and Justive leader claimed. “One only needs to determine exactly to what extent, and who is directly responsible, because the beneficiary is clear enough to the naked eye,” he said. In parliament, he stressed the large amount of invalidated votes (17.93 percent), urging MPs to back draft legislation that would shorten the terms of those elected. Although Law and Justice won the most votes (26.85 percent), the party garnered 4 percent less than an exit poll had indicated. Prime Minister Ewa Kopacz’s Civic Platform party managed 26.36 percent of the vote, slightly less than the 27.3 percent given in the exit poll.
”The election results announced by the National Electoral Commission are untrue, unreliable, so as not to use the word ‘falsified’,” Kaczynski said on Sunday, after the Saturday night release of results for Poland’s regional assemblies. Of the two largest parties, an exit poll on 16 November had given Law and Justice 31.5 percent of the vote, while Prime Minister Ewa Kopacz’s Civic Platform was forecast to garner 27.3 percent. However, following chronic delays as a result of computer glitches, the official results gave Law and Justice 26.85 percent, and Civic Platform 26.36 percent.
Poland’s largest opposition party said on Sunday the result of last week’s local elections, which gave the ruling Civic Platform (PO) party the highest number of provincial assembly seats, was “dishonest.” “We believe the results announced by the PKW are untrue, dishonest, not to simply say falsified,” Jaroslaw Kaczynski, leader of the Law and Justice (PiS) party, told a news conference, adding his party would appeal the vote in courts. Official results of the Nov. 16 election were announced by the state election commission PKW on Saturday following technical glitches that delayed the vote count. PO’s victory defied an exit poll which showed PiS ahead of PO by a wide margin. Such an outcome would have given the party its first nationwide victory in nine years.
Polish Prime Minister Ewa Kopacz rejected what she said were “irresponsible” calls by opposition parties to rerun a local ballot after police ejected protesters from election offices and vote-counting resumed. “I absolutely rule out new elections,” Kopacz said today in an interview on Radio Zet. “The State Electoral Commission wasn’t up to its task, but let’s not confuse institutional failure with election fraud.” Twelve people were detained early today and charged with illegally occupying the electoral commission in Warsaw, police spokeswoman Edyta Adamus said by phone. Another eight protesters may face the same charge, which carries a maximum penalty of one year in prison, Adamus said.
Computer hackers have attacked the website of Poland’s electoral commission, which is still unable to publish full returns from local elections because of an unrelated computer glitch, officials said Wednesday. The State Electoral Commission said while the website hacking incident didn’t add further difficulties to the vote counting process, it ordered its officials to change their passwords. The problems have undermined the credibility of Sunday’s vote, which has been seen as a test of strength for new Prime Minister Ewa Kopacz before next year’s general election.
Protesters led by right-leaning journalists stormed the headquarters of Poland’s top electoral authority on Thursday evening, demanding local elections be held again because last Sunday’s vote led to discrepancies in the vote count. Several dozen demonstrators called for the dismissal of electoral officials. One senior official on the electoral authority, Kazimierz Czaplicki, quit his post on Wednesday after the authority’s computers had been hacked and the vote-count system malfunctioned. On Thursday evening, four days after voting stations had closed, the electoral committee’s website still only gave the official turnout information from Sunday afternoon. The authority has acknowledged its inability to provide full official results in a timely manner, blaming an outside technology contractor.
Poland’s president on Wednesday sought to calm a row over key weekend local and regional elections after computer glitches left the final tally up in the air. Exit polls in the Sunday vote, seen as a test for the centre-right government ahead of next year’s general election, showed voters handing a surprise victory to the conservative Law and Justice (PiS) opposition. But final results have not yet been released due to repeated crashes by the PKW national election commission’s servers. “We cannot allow for the integrity of the ballot to be called into question, namely through calls for the elections to be repeated. That’s complete madness,” said President Bronislaw Komorowski. He pledged after discussing the matter with justice officials that the votes would be counted “honestly”.
Poland’s political opposition called for a repeat of Nov. 16 local elections and for the State Election Commission to be fired after its new computer system prevented it from tallying the ballot on time. Voting results for Poland’s 16 regional assemblies can’t be determined within three days of the vote after a technical error prevented the printing of totals from individual precincts, the commission said late yesterday. Exit polls by Warsaw-based researcher Ipsos showed the opposition Law & Justice party took 31.5 percent of the vote, compared with 27.3 percent for the ruling Civic Platform, scoring its first victory since 2005.
A computer system failure is delaying returns from Poland’s local elections while exit polls suggest the nationalist opposition winning in the countryside and the ruling party taking the big cities. Based on exit polls, Prime Minister Ewa Kopacz has congratulated the opposition Law and Justice party for its apparent victory before the 2015 general election. The State Electoral Commission said Monday that the computer problem has been fixed, but it wasn’t clear when the full returns would be known.
A Polish news magazine said on Sunday it had obtained a secret recording of a former minister saying the ruling party had settled the debts of a rival candidate in the 2005 presidential election in exchange for his withdrawal from the race. The report in Wprost magazine was the latest to emerge from a series of mysterious tapes that have tarnished the government’s reputation and confronted Prime Minister Donald Tusk with his biggest challenge since taking power in 2007. Wprost published what it said were excerpts of a secret conversation at a restaurant between Slawomir Nowak, a former infrastructure minister, and Dariusz Zawadka, a former head of military special forces and now deputy head of oil pipelines operator PERN.