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Envelope elections. Łukasz Szumowski before the investigative commission

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At that time, for me, as the Minister of Health, the issue of elections was not the most important – said Łukasz Szumowski before the investigative commission on postal elections. The former health minister said that he “recommended postponing the presidential elections by two years.”

The head of the commission for postal elections, Dariusz Joński (KO), informing about Szumowski's hearing, explained that he was summoned, among others, after the testimony of the former deputy prime minister and former head of the Agreement, Jarosław Gowin. Gowin – as Joński said – “presented information that the Minister of Health convinced him that these elections could not be held and suddenly this decision was changed.”

When asked by the commission whether he confirmed these words of Gowin and whether he was skeptical about the idea of ​​organizing elections on May 10, 2020, Szumowski replied: – My skepticism certainly concerned the health problem at the time of organizing the elections. I didn't analyze it in terms of date, that's for sure.

– At that time, for me, as the Minister of Health, the issue of elections was not the most important issue. From my point of view, as the Minister of Health, the health reasons and the protection of health and life prevailed in my consciousness – explained Szumowski.

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Szumowski on elections during the pandemic…

According to the former Minister of Health, his position on this matter has actually always been the same. – It was reflected in my position and recommendation that I sent to the Prime Minister – he added.

Łukasz SzumowskiPAP/Albert Zawada

When asked whether he was against being involved in the elections at that time, Szumowski replied that it was difficult to say. – That's not a good phrase. I had serious concerns about health safety in organizing an election that would involve large numbers of people moving and congregating at polling stations in one place. It's hard to say that I have the competence to be against or for it. I could express my opinion, the witness said.

Szumowski emphasized that in the recommendation sent to then Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki, he recommended extending the president's term of office by two years. As he reported, he also pointed out that – if not – “then understanding the various conditions, we must choose the form that is safest from the point of view of health and life” of conducting these elections.

When asked whether he recommended holding postal elections on May 10, 2020, Szumowski denied it. – What I recommended was to postpone the presidential elections by two years. And if such political consent does not occur in the then Sejm, the safest form is one that limits interpersonal contacts – said the former Minister of Health.

…about restrictions during the pandemic

Szumowski admitted before the parliamentary investigative committee that the restrictions he introduced during the epidemic had a negative impact on specific social groups, and some, such as the closure of forests, were “unfortunate”. He added that no decisions could prevent mortality during the COVID-19 epidemic.

He noted, however, that the restrictions introduced were mostly preceded by analyzes of the state of the epidemic both in Poland and other countries. He also emphasized that the basis for introducing various restrictions was the Act on special solutions related to the prevention, counteracting and combating of COVID-19, other infectious diseases and crisis situations caused by them, which – he also emphasized – was not the basis for making decisions regarding the presidential elections in 2020 year.

When asked why, a day after the then Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki announced the decision to hold envelope elections, he recommended this form of voting, he replied: “my recommendation concerned a course of action that could be implemented at any time.” According to him, postal elections were the best solution at that time and the safest, for example, for people over 60 years of age.

Asked whether he believed the act passed by the Sejm ensured the safety of voters, he replied that it did not provide specific guidelines on how to conduct voting. – My recommendation was to disinfect and keep the packets for a minimum of 24 hours before submitting them for counting – he noted.

When asked by Witold Tumanowicz (Confederation) whether, in retrospect, he did not think that a better solution would have been to introduce a state of natural disaster and extend the term of office of Andrzej Duda, he replied: “the premise for introducing another legal act would be if we had no other tools.”

Earlier on Tuesday, Paweł Skóra, former director of the IT and Telecommunications Division of Poczta Polska, testified before the committee.

READ MORE: “We weren't sure about the end date.”

Envelope elections

A parliamentary committee is explaining the circumstances of the 2020 presidential elections. Pursuant to the order of the Marshal of the Sejm of February 2020, postal voting was to be held on May 10, 2020 due to the COVID-19 epidemic.

However, on May 7, the National Electoral Commission announced that because the applicable legal regulation deprived the National Electoral Commission of the instruments necessary to perform its duties, the vote on May 10, 2020 could not take place. Ultimately, the elections took place on June 28 (1st round), and voting took place at polling stations.

Main photo source: PAP/Albert Zawada

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