THE results of the first freely contested general elections in
Poland proved both confusing and disappointing, but they should not
give cause for panic prophecies. Communism is not about to make a
comeback, the state is not about to descend into an intolerant
dictatorship, and the far-reaching economic transformation will not
collapse in a populist anti-market groundswell.
The Polish elections have produced a fragmented parliament, as
no party won more than 12 percent of the vote and 29 parties
entered the lower House. As a result, it may take several weeks
before a viable governing coalition can be forged.
President Lech Walesa will have to nominate a prime minister who
is acceptable to the widest possible number of parties. This will
prove problematic, given the personality struggles and mutual
recriminations that accompanied the splintering of Solidarity
during the past year, but the task is not impossible. If he fails,
then new elections will have to be held and the electoral law may
need to be amended to raise the percentage threshold for
parliamentary representation and encourage coalition building.
The new government will need to include at least five of the new
parties. Its core will consist of one of three groups: the
Democratic Union led by former premier Tadeusz Mazowiecki; the
Liberal Democratic Congress, grouped around the current premier
Krzysztof Bielecki; or the Center Alliance led by Mr. Walesa's
adviser, Jaroslaw Kaczynski.
Walesa's threat to nominate himself as prime minister may be a
scare tactic designed to shock the leaders of the larger parties to
come together and select a compromise cabinet. This would prevent
concentrating too much power around one individual and help to
delineate the contours of presidential, governmental, and
The coalition will also have to draw on compatible ideological
partners from the smaller parties. Some promises may also need to
be made to special interest groups, whether peasants with a more
protectionist agrarian agenda, pro-Solidarity parties seeking to
prevent large-scale unemployment, or Christian Democrats with a
traditional Roman Catholic social policy.
Such pledges may slow down the fast-paced economic reform
program but they will not reverse it. The breakup or closure of
dozens of state plants may be delayed or staggered, but not
abandoned. And the government may be willing to increase its budget
deficit to provide a more effective safety net for the pauperized
sectors of society, but it will not restore a state welfare economy.
MOST of the larger parties are committed to a market economy,
even if they have differing prescriptions on the methods and speed
of its implementation. It is imperative that the new cabinet
includes competent finance, economic, and industrial ministers who
have the confidence of Western creditors and investors. …