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Poland Trying to Save Face--and Seats--of 33 Rejected Communists

June 09, 1989|CHARLES T. POWERS | Times Staff Writer

WARSAW — The Solidarity and Communist brain trust that has guided Poland's political fortunes for much of the past year met Thursday, trying to work out a graceful way to give seats in the nation's Parliament to 33 Communist potentates who were defeated in Sunday's elections.

Following the pattern that has become standard for such gatherings, Lech Walesa arrived by train from Gdansk and, along with a handful of key strategists, joined Interior Minister Czeslaw Kiszczak--one of those rejected by the voters--and his aides to negotiate the shape of a government for Poland.

As the meeting convened, final election results officially confirmed the Communist election humiliation, showing that only two of the government's 35 special "national list" candidates, running unopposed, survived the voting public's vengeance for 45 years of Communist rule.

Solidarity also won outright 92 of the 100 Senate seats and all but one of the 161 seats left open to competitive election in the Sejm, or Parliament. It is almost sure to win those eight Senate contests and the one Sejm seat in a runoff election scheduled for June 18.

The voters' vengeance has cut two ways for Solidarity, which feels it needs the party's generally liberal establishment on the "national list" in order to deal with a government and parliament that remains under Communist control, despite Solidarity's clear mandate at the polls.

Although Solidarity has been savoring the victory, the defeat of all but two of the "national list" candidates has brought a problem for both sides and, as usual at such times, Walesa on the train from Gdansk. When asked if he was sorry the "national list" lost, Walesa, the shipyard electrician who sometimes speaks like a savant, replied: "In politics, there is no regret. There is only calculation."

The calculation, on both sides, has been intense since Monday, when the first vote tallies suggested the strength of the Solidarity victory and the depth of the Communist defeat. The triumph has put Solidarity under heavy pressure to form a coalition government with the Communists.

Solidarity has been resisting the pressure, coming mostly from the Communists, whose moods range from despair to defiance, and who are challenging Solidarity to drop its opposition stance and join them in the responsibility--and the blame--for governing the country.

In a normal parliamentary democracy, it would simply be up to the victorious party to elect a premier, who would then appoint a government. But under the curious political hybrid arranged here, the Communists have been guaranteed a 65% parliamentary majority, even though Solidarity's success in the election amounts to a clear rejection of them.

That arrangement was worked out in negotiations between Solidarity and the government that began last August and culminated in the "round-table" agreements concluded in April. Now, in effect, the government would like to alter that arrangement and, it suggests, offer Solidarity more power. Solidarity is looking this gift horse in the mouth very carefully.

While it seems curious that an opposition force as persistent and potent as Solidarity, legally banned for eight years, should reject an invitation to share power, the organization has its own powerful reasons for rejecting the bid.

In the first place, its advisers say, Solidarity is simply unprepared to take over the reins of government.

"We are simply not ready," said activist Jan Litynski, a successful Solidarity candidate for the Sejm. "We have no experience." Questions of who might head such a government, what combination of technocratic and political expertise would be required or available, reach far beyond Solidarity's present state of planning.

In addition, as Solidarity spokesman Janusz Onyszkiewicz and other key Solidarity advisers have emphasized since the election, Solidarity has seen its role as being an opposition force to the Communists, and it campaigned in the elections on that basis.

"If we entered the government," Onyszkiewicz said, "it would violate that trust."

Solidarity's leaders also realize that the Communist system's vast structure of nomenclatura bosses, running from factories to village mayors, is so widespread and deeply entrenched that it would be beyond Solidarity's control to change effectively or quickly.

But Solidarity's spokesmen refer less often to another reason for its reluctance to enter into a coalition with the Communists: It is wary of being drawn too deeply into imposing the difficult economic measures that are bound to be unpopular with the public--including its own supporters.

In effect, its critics say, Solidarity wants to have its cake and eat it too.

"We are on the verge of hyper-inflation," wrote Ryszard Bugaj, another successful Solidarity candidate, in the organization's newspaper. "Industrial production is falling. The agriculture situation is worsening."

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