Polish official: Presidential election impossible this week

WARSAW, Poland (AP) — The Polish official in charge of organizing the country's presidential election said Monday he doesn't believe it can take place Sunday as planned because the legislation to authorize an all-postal vote hasn't been approved yet.

While an official announcement hasn't been made, Deputy Prime Minister Jacek Sasin said the government is considering moving the vote to May 17 or May 23 instead. Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki made that suggestion also last week.

The right-wing government wants the vote to be by mail only because of the coronavirus pandemic. But the urgent legislation, presented by the ruling Law and Justice party, that allows for such a vote is being processed by the Senate, which is to vote on it Wednesday. The lower house will then need to take a final vote on the bill.

The Senate is controlled by the opposition, which wants the election to be delayed instead.

Even if the law is passed, the schedule leaves too little time for the 30 million ballots to be delivered to every eligible voter's mail box by Sunday, Sasin said.

“May 10 is a difficult date to meet,” he said on Radio Zet. “If the law takes effect May 7, it will not be possible to get the voting procedure ready.”

Also, the head of the State Electoral Commission, Sylwester Marciniak, told Rzeczpospolita daily that “it is not possible to carry out the election on May 10.”

However, the ruling party is sidelining the commission and having Sasin and Poland's postal service organize the ballot by mail.

The final vote on the legislation, expected Thursday, carries a major challenge to the government. Some lawmakers in the ruling party also want the election postponed, and if they vote against the postal ballot, the government could lose its slim parliamentary majority.

“If the bill on postal voting is rejected then we may have a political crisis,” Health Minister Lukasz Szumowski said on state Radio 3.

That could potentially lead to an early parliamentary election.

The ruling party supports the reelection bid by President Andrzej Duda, who leads in opinion polls, and it's pressing for the election to be held now, despite the coronavirus pandemic. Party leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski has said he believes that Duda's support may dwindle in time from the negative effects of the coronavirus lockdown.

Duda's five-year term ends Aug. 6.