WARSAW — Poland's Supreme Court declared last month's presidential election valid Saturday even though it found that the winner, former Communist Aleksander Kwasniewski, violated electoral law by lying about having a university degree.
Kwasniewski defeated President Lech Walesa by about three percentage points on Nov. 19 and is to be sworn in Dec. 23.
But about 600,000 challenges to the election were filed by Walesa supporters, most charging that Kwasniewski misled voters by claiming--in a radio interview and in the biographical statement required of all parliament members--to have a master's degree in economics.
Kwasniewski did study economics at Gdansk University, but he dropped out in his fifth year without earning a degree.
The court's 17 judges agreed that Kwasniewski and his election staff violated the law by publishing untrue information and misinforming electoral officials, court spokesman Jan Wasilewski said.
By a 12-5 vote, however, the court decided there was no "measurable and reliable influence of the violations . . . on the election result," Wasilewski said in a nationally televised session.
In opinion polls before the election, many voters said they believed Kwasniewski was better educated and more honest than Walesa, a former shipyard electrician who rose to prominence as leader of the Solidarity movement in the 1980s.
But as Poland's first post-Communist president, Walesa lost most of his popularity because of public anger over the social costs of switching to a market economy.
About 200 Walesa supporters who gathered in front of the court building whistled and chanted "Shame, shame," when they heard the ruling.
Jerzy Gwizdz, Walesa's campaign chief, said the ruling "discredited the court's independence." He and several other Walesa backers suggested that Kwasniewski resign.
"Beside the office, there is also one's honor," Gwizdz said.
Kwasniewski's campaign leaders, who were present during the opening of the session, did not show up for the announcement of the ruling.
One of the judges, Teresa Romer, said Kwasniewski did not respond to the court's request for an explanation of his claim. He has been on vacation in Spain for more than a week.