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A World of Shock and Aftershock : POLAND: Solidarity Progression

June 11, 1989|Dawid Warszawski | Dawid Warszawski is the pen name of a Warsaw independent journalist-editor of the underground journal Kos and collaborator in a new opposition daily, Gazeta Waborcza

WARSAW — The magnitude of Solidarity's victory in last Sunday's elections scared the union's leadership almost as much as the Communist Party top brass. The entire election process was founded on the assumption that the evolution of Poland's political system must be gradual, in order to prevent mass social unrest and a violent overthrow of Communist rule.

Solidarity adopted this perspective not only out of fear of Soviet intervention--rather implausible under the current conditions--but especially because of the staggering cost the country would have to pay for a violent outcome.

In the voting, Solidarity secured 92 Senate seats out of 100 and its candidates are leading in the race for seven of the remaining eight. The only other candidate with any chance of winning in the runoffs next Sunday is a millionaire farmer without any known political affiliation.

Of the 35% of the seats in Parliament up for free election under the terms of the agreement between Solidarity and the government, Solidarity secured all 161 but one, and is sure to win it in the runoffs. The remaining 65% were reserved for members of the Communist Party and satellite parties, including 35 seats booked for leading personalities running without any countercandidates on the so-called national list. This last agreement proved the prescription for disaster: Only two national-list candidates got slightly more than 50% of the vote. The defeat of the others, including Cabinet ministers and Communist Party Politburo members is, in theory, irrevocable, for according to electoral law the loser's seats should remain vacant.

Nor did the other Communist and allied candidates fare any better. Only three of them passed the electoral test last week, and that only thanks to Solidarity support (one is a regional Solidarity leader; the other two are sympathizers). On the average, 60% of the voters struck out all non-Solidarity candidates, differentiating their rejection only slightly. These slim differences permitted the selection of runners-up who will fight between themselves in the runoffs, in which Solidarity support will be crucial. Already now, after last week's voting, Solidarity controls 45.5% of the National Assembly (Parliament plus Senate) which will, under Poland's amended constitution, elect an all-powerful president. It is also important to note that the military vote--cast in a separate district--did not diverge politically from the national outcome.

The electoral victory did not change Solidarity's views: In the first declaration after initial results were known, Solidarity spokesmen reaffirmed the opposition's continuing support for the principles adopted at the talks between the union and the government.

This declaration was greeted with manifest relief in party headquarters, but has to be considered a temporary solution at best: The popular expectations it had aroused are much too great. Solidarity's decision to accept a compromise solution of the issue of seats left vacant by the defeat of the national list produced a nationwide wave of indignation.

Solidarity's electorate fears that behind-the-scenes negotiations by the opposition's cautious leadership may rob it of the fruits of victory. What is more, it is assumed that the 38% of the voters who did not bother to go to the polls include mainly those who were fed up with Solidarity's previous concessions, especially the pre-electoral division of parliamentary seats. They will constitute a powerful force, driving for accelerated change.

On the other hand, the election's logical outcome--the Communists handing over power to their victorious rival--cannot be implemented. The opposition, after seven years of underground struggle, is in no position to take over the country. Solidarity was relegalized only two months ago, and is still rebuilding. The campaign to reconstitute the union has been low key, due to the priority given the national elections. Initial results are rather disappointing--only 10% to 25% of the workers and employees have so far joined or rejoined the union.

What is more important, Solidarity's electoral program was couched in very general terms. It is a manifesto for democracy, not a program of government. Finally, behind the facade of unity, divisions within Solidarity run deep. Should national independence be sought immediately, even at the risk of provoking the Soviets? In this predominantly Catholic country, should the church play an important official role in public affairs? And--most important--in what direction should the dismantling of the current economic system proceed? Should the goal be a Western-style free enterprise economy? Workers' self-management? Something else still?

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