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Communists Rebuffed Again in Polish Runoff

June 19, 1989|CHARLES T. POWERS | Times Staff Writer

WARSAW — The Communist Party suffered its second humiliating day at the polls here Sunday, drawing only a trickle of voters interested enough to fill up the Communist seats in the national Parliament.

Only 25.31% of eligible voters turned out, according to a State Electoral Commission spokesman. This was in sharp contrast to the balloting on June 4, which saw 62% of the voters turn out in partially open elections that brought a triumph for the candidates for the Solidarity labor union.

Initial reports showed Solidarity candidates leading in five of the six provinces where the union fielded candidates, according to local Solidarity Citizens Committees.

Most of the parliamentary seats contested in the runoff were reserved for Communist Party candidates and their allies. Solidarity candidates, in the first electoral round, won 252 of the 261 seats for which they were eligible to compete. Solidarity-backed candidates were expected to pick up eight of the nine seats left to them in Sunday's runoff.

The Communists won outright only three seats in the Sejm (lower house of Parliament) in the first round, and therefore Sunday's vote was largely a contest between unpopular Communist candidates, competing against each other.

The Communists had their best chance for winning another seat in the newly created Senate (where Solidarity had 92 of 100 seats secured in the first round) in the person of a millionaire owner of a fertilizer company, Henryk Stoklosa. He waged the most costly election campaign in Polish history, filling stadiums with potential supporters with the lure of a lottery in which winners could walk away with a tractor or television sets.

A Warsaw newspaper estimated that he spent 200 million zlotys (about $230,000) in the campaign.

The constituency where he ran, Pila, in northeast Poland, had one of the highest turnouts in the voting Sunday, drawing 49% of the voters.

Many Poles who stayed away from Sunday's election said they had already expressed their views in the first round and had no intention of giving comfort to the Communists by voting for them Sunday.

Solidarity had given at least tepid support to Communist Party candidates on a so-called national list. It was defeated in the first round--even though its candidates ran unopposed--because voters scratched the names off the ballot. Thirty-three of these seats were being filled Sunday, but this time the authorities made sure each candidate was opposed, thus making certain that the Communists could fill out the 65% share of the Sejm that was alloted to them in a pre-election agreement with Solidarity.

The election debacle for the Communists has caused consternation in the ruling party, with hard-liners blaming party reformers for bringing about the disaster.

The turmoil in the party may come to a head in a Central Committee plenum, likely to be scheduled before the newly elected Parliament begins meeting, probably in early July.

The new Parliament--the Sejm and the Senate--is to elect a president with broad powers. The post has been thought likely to go to the Communist Party leader, Gen. Wojciech Jaruzelski.

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