Polish health minister says safest to delay May election

Warsaw (AFP) –


Poland's health minister, who is also a cardiologist, said Friday that delaying next month's presidential election untill 2022 would be "the only safe option" given the coronavirus pandemic.

"One option would be to put this whole issue on hold for two years and really deal with the epidemic. I think that's the best option and I recommend it," Minister Lukasz Szumowski told Poland's Polsat commercial television.

Despite pressure from the opposition, medical workers, the majority of the public and even members and allies of the ruling conservative party, the government has refused to postpone the May 10 ballot.

The governing Law and Justice (PiS) party backs President Andrzej Duda, who is their ally and running for reelection.

Analysts suggest Duda would win hands down now but could struggle at a later date, with the economy expected to buckle under a month-long lockdown that has seen businesses shut and Poles confined to their homes.

Earlier this month the PiS-controlled parliament passed legislation stipulating that the election will be held via a postal ballot.

The opposition and legal experts called the move unconstitutional. Critics have also warned of possible election fraud and health risks.

Szumowski said that at the moment the postal option "would certainly be safer than a traditional election."

"The only safe election option is an election in two years. If that is impossible, then we have to choose the safest alternative," he told Polsat.

An opinion poll published last month showed that 72 percent of respondents want the ballot postponed due to health risks.

The PiS government has rejected opposition calls to declare a state of disaster or emergency over the pandemic that would automatically postpone the election.

Under the measures, the ballot could be held 90 days after they are formally called off.