Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Tired of Fast Reform, Polish Voters Swing Back to Communists

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Tired of Fast Reform, Polish Voters Swing Back to Communists

Article excerpt

POLISH voters swung left on Sunday, opening the way for the successor of the Communist Party to form a government. Poland is the first former East-bloc nation to overturn its unabashedly pro-market leadership in an election.

Although the final results of the national parliamentary elections are not expected until the weekend, exit-poll projections yesterday showed the former Communists, the Democratic Left Alliance (SLD), capturing nearly 21 percent of the vote, trailed by the Polish Peasant Party (PSL), a former Communist Party satellite, with more than 15 percent.

Because of a new election law eliminating parties with less than 5 percent of the electorate, parties finishing over that threshold will gain extra seats in the Sejm (parliament), giving the SLD and PSL a combined majority of more than 50 percent.

The left's victory is seen as a protest against the fast pace of economic reform led by parties springing from the Solidarity movement that opposed communism during the 1980s.

Poland was the first Soviet-bloc country to remove its Communist-led government in 1989, but disagreements among the parties that grew out of the Solidarity movement of the 1980s prevented them from forming a common front against the left.

Democratic Union, the largest of these parties, placed third with 10.6 percent of the vote, but has voiced aversion to taking part in a coalition led by the former Communists.

"We will be the strongest opposition in this parliament and we'll be following all their activities to not let them spoil Polish reforms," Democratic Union spokesman Andrzej Potocki said after viewing the first results Sunday night.

President Lech Walesa, who led Solidarity until 1990 when the public elected him to his current office, will be meeting with SLD leaders this week and is expected to appoint one of them prime minister. The leading candidate is Aleksander Kwasniewski, head of the former Communists within the SLD phalanx of more than 20 left-wing organizations. …

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