March 16, 2020 / 3:53 PM / 3 months ago

No plans to delay Poland's elections due to coronavirus - PM

WARSAW (Reuters) - Poland does not plan to change the date of the presidential election scheduled for May 10 due to the coronavirus outbreak, Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said on Monday, as pressure from opposition candidates for a postponement grew.

Poland's Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki waves as he leaves after the second day of the European Union leaders summit, held to discuss the EU's long-term budget for 2021-2027, in Brussels, Belgium, February 21, 2020. REUTERS/Francois Lenoir/Files

Opinion polls show the ruling nationalists’ incumbent, Andrzej Duda, was likely to win a first round by a big margin.

He could face stiff opposition in a second round, which would be held on May 24 if he fails to secure more than half the ballots on May 10.

If Duda, an ally of the ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party were to lose, it could threaten the party’s plans to continue a judiciary overhaul that has placed Warsaw at loggerheads with Brussels over rule of law standards.

Some opposition candidates have called on Morawiecki’s conservative government to postpone the vote amid coronavirus-related restrictions in Poland such as school and shop closures and a ban on gatherings of more than 50 people.

The restrictions have effectively forced candidates to postpone most campaign activities.

Morawiecki said there was no need to postpone for the moment, citing a local election that took place in France on Sunday.

“France is today in a different situation than Poland, so there are no such plans at the current stage,” Morawiecki told a televised news conference.

Poland has reported 150 cases of the coronavirus so far, with three deaths, compared to more than 5,000 cases and 127 deaths in France.

Three presidential candidates - far-right leader Krzysztof Bosak, conservative agrarian Wladyslaw Kosiniak-Kamysz, and a conservative talk-show host, Szymon Holownia - called for the vote to be rescheduled.

The main opposition party, centrist Civic Platform (PO), has said it was too early to make decisions but accused Duda of exploiting his position as president to campaign at a time when other candidates had to curtail rallies.

“This is a moment for responsibility, meaning holding back campaign activities other than those on social media. All candidates are doing this except for Andrzej Duda,” Adam Szlapka, the spokesman for PO’s candidate, Malgorzata Kidawa-Blonska, said.

Reporting by Anna Koper, Joanna Plucinska and Marcin Goclowski; Editing by Justyna Pawlak and Angus MacSwan

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