Ex-Communist set to be new Polish PM

As the combatants in Poland's bloody and protracted political infighting retired to their corners yesterday, most observers declared President Lech Walesa the winner - on points.

Although constitutionally Mr Walesa does not have the power to sack the Prime Minister, he had in effect achieved just that. Through a sustained mixture of ridicule, sniping and outright bludgeoning, he had rendered the position of Waldemar Pawlak untenable.

On Tuesday, having also been deserted by key figures within his own Polish Peasant Party (PSL), Mr Pawlak threw in the towel. And for the seventh time since the downfall of Communist rule in 1989, Poland was heading for a change of prime minister.

In the deal hastily stitched together by the PSL and the Democratic Left Alliance (SLD), the successor to the Communist Party and the dominant player in the coalition, Mr Pawlak is to be replaced by Jozef Oleksy, the current speaker of parliament and a senior figure in the SLD.

If, as seems likely, the nomination of Mr Oleksy wins parliamentary and presidential approval, there will be an obvious irony. Mr Walesa, who built his name in the fight against Communism, will have played a key part in bringing about the appointment of a former Communist to the post of Prime Minister for the first time since 1989.

That, however, may be what he wants. Having an ex-Communist as Prime Minister will provide Mr Walesa with a much clearer target against which to strike and a point of reference against whom he hopes to be compared favourably.

With a presidential election looming in November and badly behind in opinion polls, Mr Walesa is hoping he can once again be seen as the guarantor of democracy and economic reform, which, he will argue, have been put in peril by the return of the Communists.

Such a scenario does not bode well for political peace. The conflict between President and Prime Minister may intensify.

"If Mr Oleksy is appointed there is likely to be a temporary truce but then the fighting will undoubtedly resume," said a Western diplomat in Warsaw. "Mr Oleksy will represent a prime target for Mr Walesa. And do not forget, with the departure of Mr Pawlak the President has now tasted blood."

While undoubtedly pleased with his recent efforts, Mr Walesa's joy was not undiluted. He had achieved the removal of Mr Pawlak, whom he accused of stalling on economic reform and presiding over a corrupt administration. But he had failed to secure the nomination of the man he really wanted to see as prime minister: Aleksander Kwasniewski, the SLD leader.

According to most observers, Mr Kwasniewski represents the most dangerous threat to Mr Walesa's chances of re-election. By manoeuvring him into the Prime Minister's post, Mr Walesa had been hoping to remove his greatest rival. At the same time, it is suggested, he had hoped to diminish Mr Kwasniewski's popularity by forcing him to take responsibility for unpopular government decisions.

Mr Kwasniewski, sports minister in Poland's last Communist government, has still not declared whether he will run in the presidential race. But he was pleased with himself yesterday. "I am not unhappy that I am not the candidate for prime minister," he said, enigmatically.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Sport
CSKA Moscow celebrate after equalising with a late penalty
football

Arts and Entertainment
music
Life and Style
tech

Company reveals $542m investment in start-up building 'a rocket ship for the mind'

News
Bourgogne wine maker Laboure-Roi vice president Thibault Garin (L) offers the company's 2013 Beaujolais Nouveau wine to the guest in the wine spa at the Hakone Yunessun spa resort facilities in Hakone town, Kanagawa prefecture, some 100-kilometre west of Tokyo
i100
Arts and Entertainment
James Blunt's debut album Back to Bedlam shot him to fame in 2004
music

Singer says the track was 'force-fed down people's throats'

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

IT Project Manager

Competitive: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client based in Chelmsford a...

Business Intelligence Specialist - work from home

£40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: An established and growing IT Consultancy fir...

Business Intelligence Specialist - work from home

£40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: An established and growing IT Consultancy fir...

IT Manager

£40000 - £45000 per annum + pension, healthcare,25 days: Ashdown Group: An est...

Day In a Page

Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
Let's talk about loss

We need to talk about loss

Secrecy and silence surround stillbirth
Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

Women may be better suited to space travel than men are
Oscar Pistorius sentencing: The athlete's wealth and notoriety have provoked a long overdue debate on South African prisons

'They poured water on, then electrified me...'

If Oscar Pistorius is sent to jail, his experience will not be that of other inmates
James Wharton: The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

Life after the Army has brought new battles for the LGBT activist James Wharton
Ebola in the US: Panic over the virus threatens to infect President Obama's midterms

Panic over Ebola threatens to infect the midterms

Just one person has died, yet November's elections may be affected by what Republicans call 'Obama's Katrina', says Rupert Cornwell
Premier League coaches join the RSC to swap the tricks of their trades

Darling, you were fabulous! But offside...

Premier League coaches are joining the RSC to learn acting skills, and in turn they will teach its actors to play football. Nick Clark finds out why
How to dress with authority: Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear

How to dress with authority

Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear
New book on Joy Division's Ian Curtis sheds new light on the life of the late singer

New book on Ian Curtis sheds fresh light on the life of the late singer

'Joy Division were making art... Ian was for real' says author Jon Savage
Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

The Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Barbra Streisand is his true inspiration
Tim Minchin, interview: The musician, comedian and world's favourite ginger is on scorching form

Tim Minchin interview

For a no-holds-barred comedian who is scathing about woolly thinking and oppressive religiosity, he is surprisingly gentle in person
Boris Johnson's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Boris's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Many of us Brits still disapprove of conspicuous consumption – it's the way we were raised, says DJ Taylor
Ash frontman Tim Wheeler reveals how he came to terms with his father's dementia

Tim Wheeler: Alzheimer's, memories and my dad

Wheeler's dad suffered from Alzheimer's for three years. When he died, there was only one way the Ash frontman knew how to respond: with a heartfelt solo album