While both candidates in Poland’s presidential run-off were able to campaign freely, hostility as well as biased coverage by the public broadcaster tarnished the election, international observers from the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) said in a statement today.
“The political polarization as well as the lack of impartiality in the public media coverage detracted from a well-run election,” said Thomas Boserup, head of ODIHR’s Special Election Assessment Mission. “Following a campaign that was lacking in dialogue, it is especially important to emphasize that democracies are based on respect for diversity and the rights of all, not just the majority.”
All levels of the election administration continued their work in a professional manner, despite the ongoing challenges of holding the vote during the COVID-19 pandemic. Both candidates and the authorities encouraged voters to turn out in high numbers to cast their ballots in the second round. In the limited number of polling stations visited by the ODIHR observers, the voting and counting process was smooth and well organized and sanitary measures were strictly enforced.
However, the campaign ahead of yesterday’s run-off was even more confrontational than for the first round. Clashes between demonstrators supporting both candidates became violent on occasion. Negative campaigning and mutual vilification abounded, while reports of threats against politicians and journalists were of serious concern. As in the first round, the incumbent’s campaign and coverage by the public broadcaster were marked by homophobic, xenophobic and anti-Semitic rhetoric.
The regulations governing campaign activities by public officials are insufficient, blurring the boundary between state and party. Election campaigning by high-ranking officials including the prime minister gave the current president an undue advantage.
As complaints to the Supreme Court concerning the results of the election can only be made after the second round, there was no effective legal redress for offences that may have had an impact on the outcome of the first round of the presidential election, at odds with the commitments made by all countries of the OSCE region.
ODIHR’s Special Election Assessment Mission (SEAM) to Poland took up its work on 16 June. The SEAM has focused on issues identified by ODIHR’s needs assessment mission in order to assess the extent to which the presidential election was held in line with OSCE commitments and other international standards for democratic elections, as well as with national legislation.