WARSAW, March 22 (Reuters) - Poland went ahead with six byelections on Sunday and reaffirmed plans to hold presidential elections on May 10 as pressure rises to call off the poll amid the coronavirus pandemic.
“We have to prepare this. That is the law in our country - nothing has changed,” Tomasz Grzelewski, spokesman for the National Electoral Commission, said. “If there was a decision by the President about introducing a state of emergency, then we would behave differently.”
Poland has shuttered schools, cinemas and theaters, while limiting public gatherings to no more than 50 people. It has also closed its borders to foreigners and introduced a “state of epidemic”.
The country has 627 confirmed cases of coronavirus and seven deaths as of Sunday.
But despite calls from opposition critics and candidates to call off the presidential elections, the government says it will not postpone them as it could only do so if it introduces a state of emergency.
Earlier this month, voters turned out in low numbers in France’s mayoral elections after the government imposed stringent restrictions on public life. The second round of the election was then called off.
Grzelewski said protective measures had been taken to ensure the byelection went ahead smoothly. Staff at voting booths had masks, disinfectant gel and gloves for voters to use. Voters were also to be given single-use pens to mark their ballots.
But some staff at voting booths had safety doubts. “I am convinced that these elections should be called off and moved to a safer date, one that won’t put the safety of voters at risk,” Pawel Jozef Gonda, chairman of the District Electoral Commission in Grebien, Patnow County, told private broadcaster TVN. (Reporting by Joanna Plucinska and Alicja Ptak Editing by David Holmes)