Polish voters humiliate Walesa

ADRIAN BRIDGE

Warsaw

If Aleksander Kwasniewski's lead in the Polish election is confirmed by complete final results, the outcome will be a humiliating defeat for the man who did more than any other to bring Polish Communism to its knees. A defeat for the former Solidarity leader, Lech Walesa, would also reflect a trend of social democrat victories in eastern Europe.

Final official results were not due until this evening, but the first results putting the 41-year-old Mr Kwasniewski ahead by 51.4 per cent to 48.6 per cent were greeted with grim silence at Mr Walesa's Warsaw election headquarters.

Whatever the final result, Mr Kwasniewski's supporters were overjoyed at the surprisingly strong showing of their candidate. "This is an unprecedented victory," said a spokesman for his SLD party. Mr Walesa, who had predicted victory, thanked all those who had trusted and believed in him.

The closeness of the contest underlined the deep divisions in Poland more than six years after the end of the Communist regime. Spokesmen across the political spectrum called on whoever became President to seek to end the division. "Whoever wins has the task of representing the 50 per cent who did not vote for him," said Adam Michnik, editor of the Gazeta Wyborcza. "The future of Poland will either be decided in a spirit of tolerance or we could witness the progressive polarisation of the country."

For many, the election was a re-run of the 1980s battle between Poland's Communist rulers and the Walesa-led Solidarity movement that brought them down. Reactivation of the Solidarity-Communism divide had appeared to play into the hands of Mr Walesa, whose performance over the past five years has been criticised by both political enemies and former allies.

Mr Kwasniewski, a junior minister in the last truly Communist government, says it has been a false debate, diverting attention from the really important questions about future.

Mr Kwasniewski gained considerable support from many Poles too young to remember life under Communism who were attracted by his good looks, quick wit and slick campaigning style. "Mr Kwasniewski is clearly the better of the two," Pawel Chmielewski, 19, said after voting. "He may have his roots in Communism but I think we have to believe him when he says he will not repeat the mistakes of the past. It is clear that there can never be a return to Communism."

For all the antagonism between the two candidates, there are no fundamental differences in their policy goals. Both support Polish membership of Nato and the EU and are in favour of further market reforms.

In the first round of the election two weeks ago, Mr Kwasniewski secured 35 per cent of the vote, narrowly ahead of Mr Walesa on 33 per cent.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Administrative Assistant / Order Fulfilment

£14000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An exciting opportunity to join a thrivi...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped OTE: SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consulta...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped OTE: SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consulta...

Recruitment Genius: Production Operative

£13000 - £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Due to a period of sustained an...

Day In a Page

Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
8 best children's clocks

Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones
Theme parks continue to draw in thrill-seekers despite the risks - so why are we so addicted?

Why are we addicted to theme parks?

Now that Banksy has unveiled his own dystopian version, Christopher Beanland considers the ups and downs of our endless quest for amusement
Tourism in Iran: The country will soon be opening up again after years of isolation

Iran is opening up again to tourists

After years of isolation, Iran is reopening its embassies abroad. Soon, there'll be the chance for the adventurous to holiday there
10 best PS4 games

10 best PS4 games

Can’t wait for the new round of blockbusters due out this autumn? We played through last year’s offering
Transfer window: Ten things we learnt

Ten things we learnt from the transfer window

Record-breaking spending shows FFP restraint no longer applies