THE tension in the air is almost palpable at the Scottish Polish Cultural Association in Edinburgh.

Dedicated polling station staff have been up for more than 36 hours ensuring every vote was counted and sent off to the electoral commission in Warsaw after Sunday’s election.

However, they cannot leave until the commission confirms the votes from Scotland have been accepted as valid.

As of Monday afternoon, Polish diaspora election officials across the world were still waiting in polling stations for confirmation.

Despite an exit poll showing that the ruling right-wing Law and Justice Party (PiS) look unable to form a government, the rules they have already imposed during their time in power are making Poles abroad nervous about whether their votes will be included in the final count.

'Scared of counting them' 

“PiS have made it so that the counts of overseas votes have to be submitted no later than 24 hours after polls close,” said Tomek Borkowy, a Polish actor who has lived in Scotland for more than 40 years.

“Now, we are worried that our votes may not be counted if the electoral commission continues to refuse to confirm.

“They could very well regard those votes as void by 9pm tonight, as that would have been 24 hours.

“Basically, the Polish government realised that the diaspora vote wouldn’t be in their favour and are scared of even counting them”.

This election has seen record turnout among voters, both in Poland and in diaspora communities in Scotland.

Maciej Dokurno, one of the election workers in Edinburgh, told The National people had come out to vote because they knew how important this election was for the country’s future.

He said: “Last time we had parliamentary elections in Scotland in 2019 we had just over 10,500 people cast votes in Scotland.

“On Sunday, we saw 16,000 thousand people vote. A massive increase. In Edinburgh, we had people queuing for more than two and half hours.

“But they were not grumpy about the wait. The vast majority of people were buzzing with enthusiasm and positivity because they knew this is probably the most important Polish election since 1989, when we got rid of the communist party.

The National: Maciej Dokurno said this election is the most important since the fall of communism in Poland Maciej Dokurno said this election is the most important since the fall of communism in Poland (Image: Maciej Dokurno)

“Because the way in which this government has already damaged our rule of law, has persecuted woman and removed the human rights from minorities, it means this really could be our last chance to engage in democracy in Poland.”

It comes against the backdrop of eight years of PiS in government.

Years which have seen abortion rights severely restricted and “LGBT-free zones” pop up across various regions (where, they say, “LGBT ideology” is not welcomed and Pride marches are banned).

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The public service broadcaster has been reduced to a state-sanctioned propaganda channel and the judiciary packed with party loyalists, severely undermining its independence and leading the European Union to withhold billions in Covid-19 stimulus payments to Poland.

Yet despite the PiS government attempting to encourage supportive voters to turnout by holding a referendum on numerous, highly leading questions on the very same day as the election, the exit poll suggests they have been unsuccessful.

While PiS got 36.6% of the votes and former president of the European Council Donald Tusk’s Civic Coalition party got 31%, Tusk is the only one who appears able to form a coalition. 

Indeed, he has already declared victory and made clear his intention to form a government.

The most important elections since 1989 

“It’s a miracle,” said Dokurno.

“With Polish television the way it is, with the government organising a national referendum at the same time allowing them to spend millions on campaigning, with all the money and the media, PiS still look to have lost.

“In this polling station alone, the votes are revealing.

“In the past Poles who moved to Scotland could be quite conservative but, at least in this polling station, less than 10% voted for PiS.

“The vast majority voted for either Donald Tusk’s party or other parties set to help him form a coalition.”

Borkowy and Dokurno said they were feeling a mixture of both hope and anxiety.

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The country’s PiS supporting president, Andrzej Duda, has the power to choose which party he offers the opportunity to try and form a coalition.

While the exit poll suggests there is no route to a PiS-led government, Duda may still choose to allow to try. It could delay the formation of a legitimate government by weeks.

“I am the kind of guy who has always been very proud of my Polish heritage,” said Dokurno.

“But the way the Polish government has acted over the past eight years, their treatment of people and their lack of respect for democracy, it has been shocking to watch.

“I have lived in Scotland since 2003 and I’ve always advocated for connections between these two countries and their shared history.

“I just hope this election brings the change we have been hoping for.

“That it returns a sense of common humanity to the Polish people.”