Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Ex-Communist Pole among Front-Runners

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Ex-Communist Pole among Front-Runners

Article excerpt

ALEXANDER KWASNIEWSKI, a smooth-talking former Communist Party official, appears to have as good a chance as any other candidate in parliamentary elections this weekend to become the new prime minister.

A junior minister in the pre-1989 communist government and an editor of the party's youth newspaper, Kwasniewski, 39, heads the Democratic Left Alliance, the successor to the Communists. His party leads in the polls.

"We are ready to take part in a pragmatic coalition that looks toward the future, not the past," he said in a meeting with reporters Monday night, using the kind of modern political phrasing that he hopes will differentiate his party from its roots. "We are about resolving problems in domestic and foreign policies. We need competent people in office."

Kwasniewski was vague about what he planned to do, except to say that he disapproved of the growth in power of the Roman Catholic Church and that he thought Poland should join the North Atlantic Treaty Organization only if Russia and Ukraine were admitted.

He said he would continue the economic reforms of the last four years and would encourage foreign investment as long as it promoted job growth and did not pollute the environment.

But Kwasniewski does not need to be very precise.

In the months leading to this election, the government of Prime Minister Hanna Suchocka introduced a 22 percent value-added tax on goods and services, raised the price of meat, and devalued the Polish currency, the zloty. While international bankers praised these moves as correct economic policies, they have so angered the electorate that they may turn out to be the undoing of her government.

Under Poland's election laws, opinion polls are not published in the last two weeks of the campaign. But those published a week ago showed the Democratic Left Alliance with a small lead over Suchocka's Democratic Union and the Polish Peasant Party, a former communist group in the countryside. …

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