Elections in the Time of Covid-19
Many nations have had to face the reality of holding elections during the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic. Crowding election precincts with voters at a time when nations are battling a contagion is not the most ideal scenario. In a move to help mitigate the spread of the disease, some countries have decided to postpone their elections. Poland was one of the countries that chose to delay its elections until public health conditions improved.
Polish citizens were originally scheduled to head to the polls in May; however, elections were delayed until June 28th. The two leading candidates will now face off in a head to head election slated to take place on July 12th when the country’s new leadership will be decided.
Incumbent right-wing President Andrzej Duda is defending his office against the popular Rafał Trzaskowski, the liberal mayor of Warsaw. Duda won the popular vote in the first round of elections; however, he failed to pass the 50% minimum majority required by Poland’s constitution to win the office outright. Given the high turnout of June’s election, the close race speaks volumes about the contentious partisan political battle that has divided the nation.
President Duda’s controversial record
During his nearly five years in office, Duda has been plagued by controversy. Duda rejected the EU’s migrant quota claiming, "I won’t agree to a dictate of the strong. I won’t back a Europe where the economic advantage of the size of a population will be a reason to force solutions on other countries regardless of their national interests." He has also met frequently with China to bolster strong and close relations with the Asian nation.
In addition, Duda pardoned several officials accused of participating in the “Land Affair,” a corruption scandal that ensnared leading administrators in the upper echelons of the Polish government, even before the final verdict was handed down in the case. This move was followed by a divisive legislative crisis when Duda refused to affirm the parliamentary (Sejm) nominations of five Constitutional Tribunal judge candidates.
As president, Duda has also been notoriously firm and outspoken against LGBT rights.
Rafał Trzaskowski: The liberal challenger
Since being elected the mayor of Warsaw in 2018, Rafał Trzaskowski has accomplished several impressive feats, among them the introduction of a free nursery program and the initiation of construction on six new metro stations during his first year in office. Unlike his competitor, he is a proud supporter of LGBT rights, and last year, he signed a declaration of support for Warsaw’s LGBT community.
These candidates represent two opposite sides of the political coin. The stakes are high for the upcoming election, where Poland is poised to make a historic decision that could set the path for the country’s democratic future.