State of emergency in Poland: constitutional regulation and “hybrid” nature during the COVID-19 pandemic

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Author: Valentina Chekharina

DOI: 10.21128/1812-7126-2021-4-41-67

Keywords: “hybrid” emergency, COVID-19 pandemic, epidemic mode, Republic of Poland, special law on coronavirus, state of emergency, The Constitution of Poland, the state of natural disaster

Abstract

The COVID-19 pandemic became widespread across the world throughout 2020 and 2021 in an emergency that gravely impacted the health and lives of people around the world. States have taken exceptional measures to combat the pandemic, including controversial decisions to introduce emergency regimes, which have been questioned in regards to their compliance with constitutional regulations. The fight against the COVID-19 pandemic requires special measures, however they must remain within the constitutional framework. Consequently, the pandemic and its effect upon the legality of regimes in a state of emergency has captured the attention of legal scholars. The aim of this study is to analyse the constitutional regulation of the state of emergency in the Republic of Poland which was introduced in the country during the COVID-19 pandemic. In Poland, an emergency regime was introduced following an order by the Minister of Health. However the state of emergency (here, natural disaster) as stated by the Constitution was not introduced, although, according to analysts, some state bodies and officials had confirmed that all the necessary conditions for this were met. On 2 March 2020, the so-called Special Law on Coronavirus was adopted, followed by other regulations to fight the pandemic. These analysts stated that the measures introduced by the new acts corresponded to a legal regime containing the constitutional characteristics of a state of emergency, but lacked the appropriate constitutional procedure for their introduction. Presidential elections were held at this time, however legally they cannot be held during a state of emergency, as it indicates the presence of political interests in the choice of the regime. The unconstitutional procedure of the introduction of emergency measures alongside their characteristics of the state of emergency make it possible to consider the epidemic regime introduced in Poland a “hybrid” state of emergency, which is not detailed by the Constitution or legislation. On this basis, the study concludes that reasons behind the unconstitutional response to the COVID-19 pandemic in Poland can be found in both the Constitution, and in the manifestations of the crisis of the constitutional and legal system, which began with the reform of Poland’s Constitutional Tribunal by the ruling Law and Justice party in 2015.

About the author: Valentina Chekharina – Candidate of Legal Sciences, Associate Professor, Institute of State and Law of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Moscow, Russia.

Citation: Chekharina V. (2021) Chrezvychaynoe polozhenie v Pol'she: konstitutsionnoe regulirovanie i “gib­ridnyy” kharakter vo vremya pandemii COVID-19 [State of emergency in Poland: constitutional regulation and “hybrid” nature during the COVID-19 pandemic]. Sravnitel'noe konstitutsionnoe obozrenie, vol.30, no.4, pp.41–67. (In Russian).

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