Poland's revolutionaries celebrate a comeback

Solidarity is set to gain power again after a surprisingly clear victory over the reformed Communists. The price may be a bigger dose of free market medicine than they would like. Imre Karacs reports.
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The Independent Online
Vowing to complete the revolution of 1989, leaders of the disparate strands of Solidarity celebrated their comeback to the centre-stage of Polish politics yesterday and began the arduous task of putting together the next government.

After Solidarity's stunning victory in Sunday's general elections, the right is on the verge of power. According to projections, the Solidarity Election Action block, with about 34 per cent of the votes, will be the biggest party in the new sejm (parliament). Prime Minister Wlodzimierz Cimoszewicz's former Communists scored a creditable 27 per cent, but their coalition partners, the Peasants' Party, won only about 7 per cent of the votes. If the projections are correct, the left cannot cobble together a majority.

On the right, matters have been simplified by the failure of fringe parties to gain a foothold. Freedom Union, the liberal wing of Solidarity of old, was forecast to win 14 per cent of the votes. When these are translated into seats, Solidarity will be able to form a government with the liberals of Freedom Union.

Lech Walesa, who led Solidarity against the Communist regime in 1989, offered his services yesterday as an honest broker. "I would like to invite the victorious leaders for Wednesday or Thursday at the latest," he announced yesterday. "We have to make the best use of this victory and push reforms forward." The former president played virtually no part in the election campaign, but his intervention suggests that he would like a taste of victory.

Freedom Union's price for a deal is a radical reform programme drawn up by their leader, Leszek Balcerowicz. Whether Solidarity's trade unionists can digest all the free-market medicine prescribed by Mr Balcerowicz is the question upon which the future of Poland hangs.