Poland's Opposition Criticizes Amendments To Electoral Code

WARSAW, Poland (AP) — Poland’s opposition leader on Friday criticized a new electoral reform package introduced by the governing coalition and said his party was planning to strongly monitor the voting process during general elections set for the fall.

Donald Tusk, of the Civic Platform party, said that with the changes the right-wing government is seeking to extend its hold on power, as opinion polls suggest it could lose control of parliament in the vote expected October or November.

Tusk, a former top European Union official, said any changes to the rules just months before balloting are “in violation of the basic principles of democracy.”

Poland’s powerful lower house of parliament approved the electoral law amendments late Thursday, with the votes of ruling coalition lawmakers.

The reforms still need approval from the Senate — whose decisions, however, the lower house can overrule — and from President Andrzej Duda.

They are designed to facilitate access to voting in small towns and rural areas, where the ruling coalition enjoys greatest support. Local authorities will be obliged to provide free transportation to voting centers if no public transport is available.

They also redraw the voting map and increase the number of constituencies by lowering the bar of the required number of eligible voters per constituency from 500 to 200.

Tusk charged that the governing Law and Justice party and its junior coalition partners may be seeking to influence the outcome of the elections.

“This party is seeking various ways — as proven in recent days, also by the adoption yesterday of the new electoral code — to distort the outcome of the election, because it probably is afraid of losing the vote,” Tusk said Friday.

He said his party is preparing a bigger than usual monitoring of the voting process. Poland’s electoral law allows the presence of volunteers to observe proceedings at individual voting stations.