Polish MPs pass bill allowing postal vote in presidential elections

The bill was backed by 230 MPs of the conservative ruling party Law and Justice (PiS), while 226 MPs of other parties were against and two abstained. Wojciech Olkuśnik/PAP

Poland's Sejm, lower house, on Monday night passed a bill envisaging postal voting as the only way to cast a vote in the 2020 presidential election, presently scheduled for May 10, as the country struggles with a coronavirus epidemic.

The proposed law also enables the Sejm Speaker to change the day of the vote within the limits specified in the Constitution.

The bill was backed by 230 MPs of the conservative ruling party Law and Justice (PiS), while 226 MPs of other parties were against and two abstained. The change in voting procedures was proposed by PiS.

Opposition MPs, who have been calling for the presidential election to be postponed, said on Monday night that the legislation proposed by PiS will not allow for the holding of fair elections. They said earlier that even a postal ballot would cause coronavirus infections to spread, and that normal election campaigning has been made impossible by the epidemic.

According to PiS lawmakers, Poland has found itself in an extraordinary situation, hence extraordinary measures must be taken.

Under the bill, voting will be possible solely by mail, both in the first round and in the run-off.

Voting will take place from 6:00 am to 8:00 pm, with no breaks, and will require that voters place their ballots in specially prepared mail boxes located in their voting municipalities, either by themselves or through a third person.

Pursuant to the act, the country's postal operator will deliver the election package directly to the voter's postal mailbox at the address indicated in the voter list within a period of 7 days to one day before the date of the elections.

Under the bill, the Sejm Speaker will be able to change the set election date with the caveat that the new date has to be in line with the Constitutional deadlines.

According to the Polish constitution, the election has to be held no sooner than 100 days before and no later than 75 days before the current presidential term expires. This allows for 2020 presidential vote on May 3, May 10 (the currently set date) or May 17.

The bill now goes to the Senate, the upper house, for debate.