• Mikhail Zakharov

Under Cover of COVID-19: The Political Gambling in Poland

While the world’s attention is riveted to the pandemic of coronavirus, leaders all over the world consider these hard times as an opportunity to grab more power. These weeks of severe hardship could raise the autocracies to the skies – and could unseat them. Meanwhile, they hope the citizens will barely notice their efforts, like Andrzej Duda and the “Law and Justice” party, try to do it in Poland. In case of success, Polish conservatives will solidify their hold on power, despite the possible risks of their decisions to society.

[Arkadiusz Stankiewicz/Agencja Gazeta/Reuters]

The pandemic has significantly affected all areas of life, but not cancelled the political agenda. In these times of crisis, politicians of Central Europe continue to give multiple causes for criticism – the circumstances do not reduce their desire to remain in power at any cost. The most noticeable newsbreak was given by Budapest, where Viktor Orban pushed through a law that gives him the authority to rule by decree for an indefinite period.[1] However, the menace of authoritarianism is at hand not only in Hungary. Many Central European countries can become hostages of their leaders’ long-held plans.

On May 10, 2020, presidential elections were to be held in Poland. Two months ago everything was predictable: opinion polls showed that Andrzej Duda, one of the most popular politicians in the country, who also has significant support amongst the electorate of the leading “Law and Justice” (PiS), conservative and populist party, would win them with little effort. [2] However, the epidemic in Poland threatened to spoil his game and put the country at risk of a political crisis.

Due to the spread of COVID-19, candidates were not allowed to conduct election campaigns in a traditional way, as opposition politicians have reasonably noticed. One of the candidates, Malgorzata Kidawa-Blonska, stopped her campaign activities, calling on her supporters to follow the rules of social distancing. [3] However, the changes were opposed by politicians from PiS, who did not intend to change their priorities. They insisted on holding them as it was scheduled and they had a reason – according to the polls, Andrzej Duda, who is the current president, might get more than 50% of the vote that would allow him to win in the first round. [4] Postponing the first round was not profitable for politicians from “Law and Justice”. Andrzej Duda on May 10 could have every chance of being reelected in – due to the epidemic when people tend to trust the leader more, his rating has even increased. [5] The eerie and gloomy times of crisis always lead the public to view their incumbent as the focus of national uni