Walesa Favored in Polish Runoff Ex-Communist Got Most Votes Sunday

Article excerpt

The youthful ex-communist who faces Lech Walesa in a presidential runoff insisted Monday that it was unfair to frame the contest as a battle between Solidarity and the forces it overthrew six years ago.

But an endorsement for Walesa from five highly respected centrist politicians - three former prime ministers and two former foreign ministers - suggested otherwise.

Walesa, 52, has not won high praise for his tenure. Yet he emerged from Sunday's election the slight favorite even though the ex-communist, Aleksander Kwasniewski, outpolled Walesa 35.1 percent to 33.1 percent, according to the PAP news agency. The rest of the votes were split among 11 other candidates.

To win the runoff on Nov. 19, the combative president and his pragmatic ex-communist rival must gain the support of voters who chose Solidarity-rooted centrists on Sunday.

Candidates, including Walesa, whose political careers grew out of the union movement, won more than half the vote on Sunday. But Solidarity hardly presents a solid front any more, partly because of Walesa.

Four of the five former Solidarity allies who endorsed the president on Monday - former Prime Ministers Tadeusz Mazowiecki, Hanna Suchocka and Jan Krzysztof Bielecki and ex-Foreign Minister Krzysztof Skubiszewski - have been at odds with him over his confrontational style and authoritarian bent. …