Poland's Supreme Court granted a farmer's appeal for a new vote today in an election fraud case that is expected to have important repercussions on the country's electoral system.
A three-judge panel invalidated June's local election results in the village of Fajslawice, 19 miles southeast of Lublin, after Jozef Wronski, a member of the village's election committee, complained of illegal behavior by other committee members. He said some people in the village had been allowed to cast votes for others who did not come to the polling station.
In court, several committee members admitted casting ballots for some of their own relatives but insisted that no one else was allowed to do so. They confirmed another of Wronski's allegations -- that the committee's official report on the conduct of the election had been rewritten to eliminate objections that Wronski had recorded on the original copy.
Announcing its verdict, the court declared that election rules had clearly been violated by some committee members. The court said they had undermined their own credibility by doing so and had set a poor example for the community.
The decision could put an end to voters casting ballots for relatives -- a practice which some Poles said is common in some rural areas.
The court's action was hailed by both supporters and critics of the government as providing a major boost to public confidence in a new election law that gives Poles the right to protest election results. Wronski had complained in court that secret police used harassment to pressure him to drop the case and to keep witnesses from testifying.
"I didn't expect such a verdict," he said afterward. "People in our village were saying that justice wouldn't be fulfilled. But it turns out that it will be."
In earlier hearings, the court had ordered a new election in the town of Lutowiska on the grounds that the winning candidate there was morally unfit to serve. But 12 other election challenges were rejected for insufficient proof of wrongdoing.