Poland goes to polls amid tight race, fears of irregularities

Krakow, Poland, Oct 15 (EFE).- Polling booths opened in Poland on Sunday at 7 am for over 30 million citizens registered to vote for electing the government for a four-year term as well as a national referendum.

Thousands of polling centers – set up in schools, public buildings, prisons and hospitals across the country’s 41 districts – will remain open until 9 pm, with electoral activities set to be monitored by thousands of delegates affiliated to political parties and around 100,000 volunteers.

The last day before the elections on Friday passed without major incidents.

On Saturday, voters would elect 430 members of the lower house and 100 senators, with the current government – led by the ultra-conservative Law and Justice (PiS) party – vying for a third consecutive term.

At the same time, Poles would also be voting on a referendum launched by the government that includes questions on immigration, national security and social security.

According to pre-election surveys, PiS could once again emerge as the largest party with a 5 percent lead over the main opposition force Civic Coalition.

However, it is not clear if the ruling party can win enough seats to form a government on its own or would need to seek post-poll alliances.

As per a poll released on Friday, around 41 percent of the population feared that the vote counting process might be subject to fraud, while the Polish electoral commission has received a record number of requests by international observers to monitor the process.

A group of 120 representatives from independent organizations, such as the European Platform for Democratic Elections and the European Dialogue and Democracy Association, said on Friday that they had still not been granted accreditation to observe the elections.

The elections would be held implementing recently introduced changes in the electoral law, including a provision for providing free transport to residents of towns with less than 1,000 people to reach the polling booths.

Mobile polling booths will be set up in areas with lack of adequate communication, such as the Tatra mountain range in the south, a move criticized by the opposition as an attempt to boost voting in an area considered a traditional PiS stronghold.

An estimated 700,000 Poles could vote overseas, with 52 polling stations being set up in 21 states of the United States, which has a sizable Polish diaspora.

The voting in the US had begun on Saturday, so that the votes could be counted in time for the results.

The electoral commission has announced that the final results of the vote count may not be available until Tuesday morning. EFE


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