Majority of Poles want presidential election postponed amid coronavirus: survey

WARSAW (Reuters) - Nearly three-quarters of Poles think a presidential election due on May 10 should be postponed, according to an opinion poll released on Wednesday, as Poland combats the coronavirus.

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The nationalist Law and Justice (PiS) government has closed schools, theaters and cinemas, and is allowing people to leave their homes only for essential activities to try to curb the spread of the coronavirus.

But Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said on Tuesday the presidential election would go ahead as planned in the country of 38 million, where 957 coronavirus cases have been confirmed and 13 people have died after contracting the virus.

An opinion poll released by the IBRIS pollster suggested many Poles oppose that decision. The poll, published by the Rzeczpospolita newspaper, found more than 72% of respondents are opposed to the election taking place on May 10.

About 20% of respondents think holding the election as planned would be acceptable, with about 48% of those who support PiS not opposing it going ahead, according to the poll of 1,100 people conducted by telephone on March 23.

Some opponents, lawyers and Poland’s commissioner for human rights have called for the election to be postponed because of the coronavirus.

“Exposing voting citizens and electoral commission workers to serious health risks could expose civil servants and those working for electoral commissions to civil and criminal responsibilities,” Ombudsman Adam Bodnar said on Tuesday.

But President Andrzej Duda’s election campaign spokesman, Adam Bielan, told Polish public radio: “Those who call for the elections to be postponed are essentially calling for breaking the constitution.”

Duda, a PiS ally, is seeking a second five-year term. Rivals say they have had to call off their campaigns because of the restrictions imposed against the coronavirus, but he is still appearing on television and traveling around the country.

Only the president can introduce a state of emergency, effectively postponing the election, a spokesman for the electoral commission said.

Reporting by Marcin Goclowski, Editing by Joanna Plucinska and Timothy Heritage