Dear Senator Richard J. Durbin
Poland’s presidential elections are – against the will, safety and health of the people – to be held on May 10th during the current pandemic. They are organized as mail-in / correspondent voting. The National Electoral Commission has been sidelined and switched off in an illegal emergency law coup. The de facto ruler of the country MP and leader of the ruling PiS party Jarosław Kaczyński desires to do so to maintain PiS regime’s grip on power given this opportunity that the epidemic provides him.
This is de facto what President Trump talked about numerous times – correspondent voting allows for fraud. Will US authorities and representatives stand by and allow one of the US’ allies to slide into authoritarianism?
In March Poland’s PiS regime inserted in parliament certain articles into the emergency COVID-2019 rescue package Bill, adding changes into electoral laws for correspondent voting for individuals under quarantine and those 60+ years old. The method in which this was done is against the law and Constitutional Tribunal rulings. Poland’s electoral laws can be amended only 6 months before any election. The pandemic has given many authoritarian regimes the opportunity to quietly pass through changes quietly. Cynical, political manipulation is leading Kaczynski to stop president Duda and the government from declaring a formal national state of emergency, required to stop and shift the May elections to a later date. In doing so, they are once again breaking the Constitution and rule of law.
Poland is under an ‘epidemic state’ by government decision from March 13th with schools, borders, and most of the economy shut down. The harsh lockdown measurers have created a rally around the flag effect for the incumbent regime. Alongside the inability for opposition presidential candidates to carry out a normal electoral campaign, with most people locked and frightened at home, and the public health crisis we are in, we are in no situation to hold elections, where approx. 270,000+ individuals have to be employed to organize them, and millions to crowd themselves into voting booths.
First, this is a global public health risk. Reports show almost 500,000 people would be at a heightened risk of exposure to COVID-2019 if Kaczynski’s plan falls through, and the number of infected would jump by at least 75% relative to no election held.
Second, this would be a farce of democracy. Turnout would be record low, while it has been record high over the last three most recent elections. Recently Great Britain moved it’s May elections into May 2021, primary elections in the US have moved for several states, France’s second round of local elections has been moved, elections in Russia, Bolivia and numerous countries are moved as well.
The Polish Post’s mailmen are increasingly going on sick leave. Moreover, we see censorship of medical professionals and procedural suppression and omission of fatality and infection data, on top of the engineering of this pandemic crisis into a propaganda and electoral tool that favors the incumbent presidential candidate Duda. This crisis is leveraged in Poland to hold a manipulated, undemocratic correspondent-voting based election. This will undermine not only president Duda’s office, should he win, but undermines democracy in the fifth largest member state of the EU and a devoted US ally and NATO member.
We plead for US elected officials, officials at the Department of State, the US Ambassador to Poland to speak out and act to stop this illegal, at risk of fraud correspondent voting election in Poland. Given the emergency situation, it would undermine democracy, have serious consequences on US-Polish relations, and by itself by example could impact the process of US voting.