Senate rejects act on postal voting in presidential elections

On Tuesday evening, the Senate, the upper house of the Polish parliament, rejected the act on postal voting amid the COVID-19 pandemic in the presidential elections, adopted by the Sejm (lower house).

Senators discussed the act on postal elections throughout the day. 51 senators voted for rejecting it, 35 were against, while one person abstained.

The doubts among senators were caused, among others, by the length of the procedure for counting votes, problems with deadlines for the delivery of ballot papers and the protection of election boxes. Opposition senators pointed out that the act excludes more than a million Polish citizens from voting, including those living abroad and those whose registered address is different to their actual place of residence.

The act was thereby passed back to the Sejm. According to the Sejm schedule, further voting is set to take place on Wednesday afternoon.

The act on special rules for holding general elections for the Polish President was adopted by the Sejm on April 6 on the initiative of the ruling Law and Justice party PiS and provides that voting in this year's presidential election is to be held only by postal voting.

Earlier, the Sejm Speaker Elżbieta Witek asked the National Electoral Commission (PKW) whether holding the elections on May 10 is possible. In response, PKW stated that it “is impossible for legal and organisational reasons”.

May 23 elections in line with Constitution provisions

According to Mrs Witek, the presidential election can take place on Saturday, May 23, because the constitution allows it. This date is the deadline for these elections, pursuant to the provisions of the Constitution.

Article 128 (2) of the Polish Constitution provides as quoted:

"The election of the President of the Republic shall be ordered by the Marshal of the Sejm to be held on a day no sooner than 100 days and no later than 75 days before expiry of the term of office of the serving President of the Republic, and in the event of the office of President of the Republic falling vacant - no later than the 14th day thereafter, specifying the date of the election which shall be on a non-working day and within a period of 60 days of the day of ordering the election”.

Mrs Witek said that in the act on special support instruments adopted by the Sejm on April 16 in connection with the spread of COVID-19, there was a provision on the basis of which the Prime Minister may declare Saturday a non-working day, therefore allowing for the elections to take place on that day.

She also asked for consideration of her request by the Constitutional Tribunal as soon as possible, because it is a matter of "the highest, state importance”.