Analysis: Bavarian style election, minority government?

Law and Justice (PiS) are to introduce legislation which will allow the Presidential election of May 10 to take place by postal ballot only. There would be no polling stations open. Meanwhile Deputy Prime Minister, higher education minister and leader of the Agreement party which is allied to the ruling Law and Justice (PiS) is reported to have threatened to resign if PiS decides to press ahead with holding the Presidential election in May.

PiS who on Tuesday submitted to Parliament a draft of an amendment to the electoral code that would allow all voters to vote postally if they wished, is now reported to want to go further and to legislate for a 100 percent postal vote without opening polling stations on May 10. This would mean that all voters would receive their ballot papers by post and voge by return of post by a set deadline.

The ruling party argues that the election has already begun and that in order for it to be carried out safely Poland should copy Bavaria, which last Sunday held a full postal ballot in the second round of the German Lander’s local government elections. The opposition parties are calling for the government to declare a state of emergency in order for the elections to be postponed and protest that changing the election code in the middle of an on-going election protest is unconstitutional. A constitutional court ruling from some years ago recommended that no changes in the electoral code should take place within six months of an election.

The PiS executive met on Wednesday night to discuss the changes in the electoral code. The ruling party leader Jarosław Kaczyński is reported to be strongly in favour of going ahead with the election. He and his party argue that a state of emergency cannot be introduced just to delay an election, when the government has the necessary powers to fight the epidemic already.

However opinion within the government is divided on the issue of going ahead with the election. Deputy Prime Minister Jarosław Gowin has voiced doubts whether the election should go ahead and argued for the poll to be postponed by one year, via a constitutional amendment.

According to deputy Prime Minister Jacek Sasin, interviewed on commercial radio RMF FM Mr Gowin has threatened to resign from the government over the election date issue. Mr Gowin himself has not confirmed that he is considering resigning.

According to other sources Mr Gowin has threatened that his party’s MPs would not vote for the proposed change in the electoral code at the Lower House sitting which has been called for Friday. If they do not PiS would not have a majority for its proposal. If Mr Gowin left the government and his “Agreement” MPs (18 out of 235 in the 460 seat Lower House) supported him the government would lose its majority and in effect would become a minority administration.

However, Mr Gowin was then reacting to the proposal to have the polling stations opened and postal voting as an option for voters to be able to avoid going to the polling booths. Now that PiS are actually proposing not to open polling stations but to conduct the whole election by post he may have enough wiggle room to change his mind. Especially as there is little danger that the parliamentary opposition which controls the Senate will allow the legislation to proceed at the speed required for it to become law.