'Colossal defeat' expected for Solidarity

Barry Stoller bstoller at utopia2000.org
Sat Sep 8 20:38:56 MDT 2001

AFP. 8 September 2001. Poles set to hand electoral humiliation to a
divided Solidarity.

WARSAW -- A dozen years after it toppled communism, Poland's Solidarity
is set for a colossal defeat in elections later this month which could
see it disintegrate as a political movement.

When Poles vote on September 23 they are likely to install the
ex-communists in power with nearly half of the popular vote, according
to the latest opinion polls.

Prime Minister Jerzy Buzek's Solidarity Electoral Action (AWS) coalition
is hovering around the eight percent needed for a coalition to win

It is no longer a question of winning the election, says Lech Walesa,
the movement's former leader and president from 1991-1995, but "saving
the honor" of Solidarity and "preventing the ex-communist left from
gaining a political monopoly."

While the death of Solidarity as a political force has been pronounced
more than once before, Polish columnist Marek Matraszek noted recently
that it now faces a particularly difficult future.

Hopes were high when AWS and the liberal Freedom Union (UW), which also
had roots in the Solidarity democracy movement, won elections and formed
a coalition government in 1997.

But much heralded medical, pension and education and administrative
reforms were poorly administered, caused chaos, and led to little
visible improvement in services.

The roaring economy, the one big feather in the AWS cap, has stalled.
Growth in the first half of 2001 was an anaemic 1.9 percent compared to
5.4 percent a year ago.

Unemployment, near 16 percent, continues to rise as the children from
the 1980s baby boom enter the job market.

Adding insult to injury, the finance minister announced last month that
the budget deficit would triple next year to 88 billion zlotys (23.3
billion euros, 20.8 billion dollars) or 11 percent of gross domestic
product (GDP) unless taxes were hiked and radical cuts made to social

Walesa, running as an independent candidate, won only one percent of the
vote in a presidential election last October and Aleksander Kwasniewski,
a former communist, was easily re-elected in the first round with 54
percent of the vote.

"What is left of Solidarity?" mused Walesa.

The answer, come September 24, may be precious little.

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Barry Stoller

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