Poland's run-off vote well run, but public broadcaster biased - OSCE

The second round of the presidential elections in Poland was properly organised despite legal shortcomings, but it suffered due to the public media's hostility, its rhetoric of intolerance and its bias, the OSCE said on Monday.

On Monday, the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) presented its report on the second round of the presidential elections in Poland, carried out on Sunday, July 12.

"Candidates were able to campaign freely in a competitive run-off, but hostility, threats against the media, intolerant rhetoric and cases of misuse of state resources detracted from the process. The polarized media environment, and particularly the biased coverage by the public broadcaster, remained a serious concern. The refusal by both candidates to meet in a joint debate deprived voters of the opportunity to compare their policies. Inexpedient timeframes for processing complaints and appeals inhibited the means of legal redress between the two rounds," the OSCE wrote in a statement.

"In the limited number of polling stations visited, the voting and counting process was smooth and well organized and COVID-19 sanitary and protective measures were strictly enforced," the statement went on to say.

"The candidates were able to campaign freely. However, the run-off campaign was even more confrontational than before the first round," the OSCE said.

"The campaign was marked by negative rhetoric, harsh mutual accusations, and vilification of the opponents, all contributing to the perception of the election in zerosum terms. ODIHR SEAM noted instances of intolerant rhetoric of xenophobic, homophobic and anti-Semitic nature, particularly by the incumbent’s campaign and the public broadcaster," the statement said.

"As previously noted by ODIHR, the legal framework remains silent on campaign activities conducted by public officials. Prime Minister Morawiecki toured the country visiting more than 80 cities in his official capacity making campaign promises to distribute public funds while publicly handing out ceremonial cardboard checks. All events were featured on the official Facebook account of the Office of the Prime Minister. This blurred the line between state and party and created an undue advantage for the incumbent, which is at odds with paragraph 5.4 of the 1990 OSCE Copenhagen Document," the OSCE also said.

The Warsaw-based OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) provides support, assistance and expertise to participating States and civil society to promote democracy, rule of law, human rights and tolerance and non-discrimination. ODIHR observes elections, reviews legislation and advises governments on how to develop and sustain democratic institutions. The Office conducts training programmes for government and law-enforcement officials and non-governmental organisations on how to uphold, promote and monitor human rights.