WARSAW — Polish President Andrzej Duda isnt putting much social distance between himself and his potential voters.
Duda has been on a tear around the country in recent days, visiting a hospital, a border post and a factory owned by state-controlled refiner PKN Orlen that is now being used to produce hand sanitizer.
The presidents office says this is all part of the job of a head of state in a country in crisis thanks to the coronavirus epidemic, but Dudas rivals accuse him of conducting an unfair political campaign ahead of presidential elections scheduled for May 10.
Opposition presidential candidates have called off rallies and one, the independent Szymon Hołownia, has suspended his campaign. Polands tough coronavirus restrictions, which ban public gatherings of more than 50 people, make it almost impossible to conduct normal politics.
But for now, Duda has no plans to stop.
If Duda can push his vote total above 50 percent, he could win in the first round instead of having to fight it out with the runner-up in a second round on May 24
“The elections will take place on May 10,” Błażej Spychalski, the head of the presidents Cabinet, told Polish radio on Wednesday.
Duda, who won his first term five years ago with the support of the ruling nationalist Law and Justice (PiS) party, is far ahead in opinion polls. A survey out this week had him at 46.4 percent, well ahead of his nearest rival, Małgorzata Kidawa-Błońska of the centrist Civic Coalition, with 20.4 percent. The other four official candidates were even further back.
If Duda can push his vote total above 50 percent, he could win in the first round instead of having to fight it out with the runner-up in a second round on May 24 — and his supporters are urging him to hang on.
“President Duda is ever closer to a first-round victory,” tweeted Beata Mazurek, a PiS member of the European Parliament. “For many reasons it would be a very sensible and practical solution. In that way many potential implications could be avoided.”
But the opposition is crying foul.
Andrzej Duda and Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki made a joint announcement of an “anti-coronavirus shield” worth 212 billion złoty (€47 billion) | Odd Andersen/AFP via Getty Images
“There is no presidential campaign and the election is approaching,” said Robert Biedroń, a left-wing presidential candidate. “The president is in a privileged position,” he said, adding, “Today, elections wouldnt be fair.”
Opposition parties complain that even though campaign rallies have been suspended, Duda is getting a lot of coverage as he travels around the country checking on coronavirus preparations and making headline-grabbing announcements of government programs. On Wednesday, he and Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki made a joint announcement of an “anti-coronavirus shield” worth 212 billion złoty (€47 billion) in economic aid to help with the consequences of the pandemic.
Duda is also getting an enormous boost from state-controlled media, which has become a propaganda arm of the ruling party. In February, state television devoted 17 hours of airtime to Duda (both as candidate and as president), 30 minutes to Kidawa-Błońska, and 44 seconds to Biedroń.
“Today, President Andrzej Duda should be a responsible politician and give a good example, instead of traveling around on visits which have nothing to do with his presidential responsibilities,” Borys Budka, the leader of the Civic Coalition, told reporters on Wednesday. “Today, President Andrzej Duda is the only one engaged in an election campaign.”
He called on Morawiecki to declare a national emergency so that the election can be delayed. Under Polish law, an election would be shifted to no earlier than 90 days after such an emergency expires; however, the government hasnt yet made any such declaration. Morawiecki cautioned Wednesday that putting off the vote until the fall could mean that the election would happen during a second wave of the cornavirus.
Other presidential candidates also want a delay, and theres an online petition calling for a change in dates.
Polands health service is also underfunded and understaffed. Many doctors and nurses left to work in Western Europe in recent years, and the country spends only 6.5 percent of its GDP on health care
Dudas backers arent giving an inch. Ryszard Terlecki, the deputy speaker of parliament, tweeted that the opposition were “losers” for calling for a new election date. “Poles wont choose them either in May or at any other time,” he added.
But Duda is taking a risk.
For now hes riding a wave of support as worried Poles turn to the government for help during scary times. But if the pandemic gets much worse, opinion could shift. As of Wednesday, Poland had 282 coronavirus cases and five deaths.
However, those numbers are almost certainly a wild understatement as Poland has lRead More – Source