The Open Letter
of the Polish Scientists
on irregularities in local elections and their consequences
We, the undersigned scientists wish, for the sake of the good of the Polish State and its prestige and image on the international arena, to express our deepest concern about the events related to the local elections of 2014.
Our concern relates to both the conduct of the elections as well as the response of the state authorities and some of the media to the outcry of Polish society demanding greater transparency, fairness and social control over the election process.
The scale of irregularities, organizational chaos and misinformation demonstrated by the National Election Commission and its subordinate field offices is alarming not only to astute observers of Polish political life. The inability to efficiently add up votes and present the results of the election to the public, embarrassing mistakes in counting votes at all levels of election commissions, large discrepancies of invalid votes in the range of even dozens of percent, especially between neighboring electoral precincts, as well as contradictory information issued by the election commissioners - all these issues call into question the integrity of appropriate electoral bodies and supervision over their activities.
Also, we are concerned about the reaction of some of the official representatives of the Polish State who openly downplay and ignore voices of protest to the above-mentioned signs of unfairness and perhaps dishonesty. Unequivocal statements from high public officials that in local elections there has been no breach of law on the scale that would justify a voters protest should not take place for two reasons. Firstly, such matters should be resolved by independent courts which should be allowed to perform their duties in this regard without any political pressure. Secondly, citizens have full right to express their opinion. Accusing protesters of trying to destabilize the state is de facto creating a prohibition of any open public debate.
In this context, it is impossible to ignore the role of the media, which all too often - out of the sense of wrongly understood responsibility for a state stability - legitimize incompetency and abuse of power by the state apparatus. As a result, the public receives incomplete or false picture of the situation, while the decision makers continue to further deteriorate the state. Surely this situation doesn’t help in building and strengthening democracy.
Allowing for "mediocrity" in organizing elections, and most of all stigmatizing attitudes of civil responsibility citizenship by state representatives, will result in further erosion of community of citizens and will also deepen divisions within the society and foster radicalization. There is no democracy, if elections are not conducted in a fair manner, but also when a part of the population is denied the right to appeal apparent violations of the Election Code and challenges of the election results in situation, when errors in procedures are obvious and do not even require evaluation by a court such as official proclamation of the victory of a candidate who did not even stand for election, or illegally increasing the number of parliamentary seats in the regional councils, etc.!
We are standing on the "red line," which we cannot cross. If we do so, one decision can ruin 25 years of the system transition. Therefore, we call on the President of the Republic of Poland and parliamentarians to: first - begin a social dialogue, from which opponents and political rivals will not be excluded regardless of their ideological provenance; second - refrain from pressure on the independent courts, which will settle voters complaints soon; third - immediately start work on the revisions to the Electoral Code, the purpose of which should be full transparency of the electoral processes, securing the conduct of elections and the process of counting votes.
We also appeal to the academic community, especially from political science and legal fields, to jointly undertake research effort aimed at identifying the most important errors in the electoral laws and procedures, and to develop appropriate solutions, enabling fair and efficient conduct of the elections in Poland. We understand that our community is divided politically. However, we believe that in the best interests of the Republic of Poland we should be able to take a joint action. Election results should be respected provided that the elections are conducted in a fair manner that is consistent with democratic standards.
We also appeal to students not to remain neutral with respect to the problems raised in this letter. Above all, we appeal to your sense of responsibility for the fate of the Polish Republic - the country in which you were born, where you study and where you hopefully plan your future. Many times in the past, it was the student community who motivated us, professors, to explicitly choose, to make a clear choice. Polish history has been in many instances and periods the history of violating domestic peace not by those well-fed and the incumbents, but by those who sometimes do not have the adequate knowledge, but believe in the ideals ...
Prof. doc hab. Radosław Zenderowski
Translated by Krzysztof C.