The main opposition candidate in Poland’s presidential elections, Rafał Trzaskowski, has collected double the necessary 100,000 supporting signatures required for him to stand, despite only being given days to do so.

On Sunday morning, Trzaskowski’s team announced that they had already gathered 130,000 signatures, reports wPolityce. However, they urged supporters to continue providing signatures before Wednesday’s final deadline, in case the government tries to find a way to declare some invalid.

By Sunday afternoon, the counter on the candidate’s official website claimed that the number of verified signatures had passed 200,000.

Last Wednesday, the speaker of parliament called new elections for 28 June. The previous scheduled election, on 10 May, was voided after the government failed to organise an all-postal vote amid the pandemic.

Candidates who stood in the abandoned election were exempted from having to again collect the required 100,000 signatures from the public to stand. But new candidates were required to gather the signatures from scratch, and were given only a week to do so (compared to the 50 days other candidates had previously had).

The main opposition party, centrist Civic Platform (PO), which had decided to replace its previous candidate, Małgorzata Kidawa-Błońska, with a new one, Trzaskowski, claimed this was unfair and designed to make it harder for Trzaskowski to stand.

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The opposition-controlled upper house of parliament, the Senate, had sought to introduce an amendment giving new candidates a minimum of 10 days to gather signatures. But this was rejected by the more powerful lower-house Sejm, where the ruling conservaitve Law and Justice (PiS) party has a majority.

As soon as the election was called on Wednesday, Trzaskowski’s team began a nationwide campaign to gather signatures. “The mobilisation and energy on the streets of Polish cities, towns and villages is amazing,” said the candidate yesterday, quoted by wPolityce.

Even an MP from a rival party, Maciej Gdula of The Left, provided his signature. “I’m of course voting for Robert Biedroń [The Left’s candidate], but Trzaskowski must have the chance to take part in the presidential race,” Gdula tweeted.

After confirming he had reached 100,000 signatures, Trzaskowski warned that “knowing today’s authorities, we need many more…[so that] no tricks cause any of the signatures to be questioned”. He called on supporters to continue collecting signatures until the deadline on Wednesday.

Some media have previously reported that activists were collecting signatures on behalf of Trzaskowski before the election had been called, which would not be permitted.

If the media reports that Trzaskowski has already collected 100,000 signatures are true, it would be breaking the law,” said Krzysztof Sobolewski, chairman of PiS’s executive committee, last month. “This would put the Civic Coalition and its leadership in a terrible light.”

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Since replacing Kidawa-Błońska as PO’s candidate, Trzaskowski has seen his poll numbers rise significantly. He is now polling around 27%. That puts him second behind incumbent Andrzej Duda (on around 40%), who is supported by PiS, and well ahead of third-placed Szymon Hołownia (around 13%), an independent.

If no candidate wins more than 50% in the first round of voting, a run-off election between the top two takes place. Two polls published last week suggest that Duda has a narrow advantage over Trzaskowski in the second round, of around 1 or 2 percentage points among decided voters.

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Like Trzaskowski, Duda has been touring the country to campaign for votes. This weekend, speaking in the southeastern town of Stalowa Wola, he proposed a new policy to give every family 500 zloty (€113) per child to spend on domestic holidays this summer.

Last month, the government proposed a similar policy, which would give workers earning less than the average wage a voucher worth 1,000 zloty to spend on domestic holidays. No such legislation has yet been put forward, however.

With presidential candidates now actively campaigning, some have raised concern over the lack of respect for current social-distancing requirements, which are supposed to limit the size of gatherings and require participants to wear face masks or keep two metres apart.

At a campaign event this weekend, President Duda openly embraced supporters gathered close together without masks.

Meanwhile, a speech by Trzaskowski in Kraków attracted a large, closely packed crowd, with some participants not wearing masks. The candidate then mingled with and greeted members of the audience.

Although Poland has had a relatively low rate of coronavirus infections and deaths, it remains one of the few European countries in which new and active cases of the virus have not yet peaked, according to official figures. Yesterday saw a record high number of new cases reported by the health minister.

Main image credit: Platforma Obywatelska RP/Flickr (under public domain)

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