WARSAW -- The Polish Communist Party's two longtime parliamentary allies bolted their old coalition Wednesday and agreed to back a Solidarity-led government with Lech Walesa as premier.
Solidarity lawmakers, with their new partners in the United Peasants' Party and Democratic Party looking on, endorsed a resolution Wednesday night calling for Walesa to be named premier at the head of what would be the first non-Communist government in the East Bloc.
Earlier Wednesday, the United Peasants and Democratic parties voted to abandon their alliance with the Communists that began 40 years ago and to join forces with Solidarity.
Jaruzelski to Get Plan
The new coalition intends to present its plan today to President Wojciech Jaruzelski, who retains the power to nominate the premier.
One Solidarity lawmaker, Jaroslaw Kaczynski, said there are indications--but no firm assurances--that Jaruzelski will agree to the plan if it carries the approval of the three parties.
"We must take some risks," Kaczynski said.
During the day, Walesa appeared to give out conflicting signals as to whether he would serve as premier of a new government. Before the Solidarity vote, Walesa told the delegates of all three parties, meeting in the main chamber of the Sejm, or lower house of Parliament, that he would accept the post. "I never dreamed that Lech Walesa could be premier," he said. "I never even imagined it."
Early today, however, he was quoted as saying, "I will not be premier," and adding, "There are better people than Walesa" for the job. But to complicate matters further, he added that he had not yet made his final decision.
Walesa was greeted with loud applause as he arrived at the meeting from his home in Gdansk. In a brief speech, he said the choice to enter government was a difficult one, "but there is no other one, and we must undertake it. . . . We came here to change Poland."
Nod of Gratitude
He gave a special nod of gratitude to "our elder friends from the Peasants' Party and Democratic Party" who earlier in the day had voted to endorse his proposal to form a Solidarity-led coalition.
"Together we will teach the (Communist Party) pluralism, freedom and listening to others," he said.
However, it remained uncertain whether the Communists, reeling from setback to setback in the rush of political events, would turn over control of the government. Communist lawmakers, in a separate meeting, appointed a group to formulate a stand on the question, and there were signs of growing resistance from Communist Party leaders. There was continuing uncertainty as well over the reaction of the Soviet Union to the possibility of a Solidarity government in Poland.
Communist Party leader Mieczyslaw F. Rakowski, in what was described as an emotional speech before a closed meeting of Communist members of the Sejm, accused Walesa of violating the spirit of the "round-table" accords signed in April. Those accords, signed by the government and the opposition, re-legalized Solidarity and endorsed measures aimed at pulling Poland out of its political and economic crisis.
"We have entered a period of an open fight for power," Rakowski said, according to the official Polish news agency PAP. He urged the party to stand firm. "The situation is dangerous," he said, "but it is not time to put up our hands."
Solidarity deputy Aleksander Paczynski opened the joint caucus of the new opposition coalition, whose 264 votes should control the 460-member Sejm, with two proposals certain to raise even more Communist alarm. He called for a renegotiation of the round-table accords to bring about new and fully free elections in two years instead of four, as the accords now state. And he proposed shifting control of the Communist-run state television and radio to the Parliament.
Through such "spectacular, quick decisions," Paczynski said, a Solidarity government led by Walesa would ease public anger and impatience and demonstrate that substantive changes are under way. The round-table accords should be renegotiated, he said, because neither side should be bound by agreements "reached in a different time, in a different situation and under different circumstances."
The resolution passed by Solidarity lawmakers said that the "parliamentary coalition of the Peasants' Party, the Democratic Party and Solidarity is capable of forming a government of national responsibility under the leadership of Lech Walesa in which all political forces of our country could be represented, all forces which are determined to act in favor of political and economic reform."
Walesa last week suggested that Solidarity was prepared to form Poland's new government but that it would continue to reject Communist entreaties to join in a Communist-led government.
Ready to Step Aside
But the situation continued to develop rapidly when the newly elected premier, Gen. Czeslaw Kiszczak, announced Monday that he was ready to step aside in favor of Roman Malinowski, the United Peasants' Party leader. Malinowski, Kiszczak said, had a better chance of forming a broad-based government.
Solidarity, however, quickly rejected Kiszczak's idea, and Malinowski's own party gave it virtually no support. Malinowski himself has not commented on the proposal, and his nomination now appears to be a dead issue.
Walesa said Tuesday, after insistent questioning from journalists, that he would accept the post of premier "if society wants it" but insisted that he preferred that someone else take the job.
He also said that if Solidarity did take over the government, it would leave the sensitive interior and defense ministries in the hands of the Communists, a pledge that was designed to ease nervousness in Moscow and in party headquarters in Warsaw. He added that Solidarity would have no intention of pulling Poland out of its Warsaw Pact military commitments with the Soviets.
The Soviet Foreign Ministry in Moscow mildly described Walesa's pledge as "sensible."
"Poland is a member of the Warsaw Pact," said ministry spokesman Yuri A. Gremitsky, "and Solidarity should make the necessary conclusions as a result of that."
Gremitsky said the Soviet Union is "very much concerned" about the Polish situation, but "we don't interfere in the internal affairs of that country," and he added, "The Polish people should decide themselves."
Newspaper commentaries in Moscow, however, have warned that a Solidarity attempt to take the government could destabilize Poland and Europe and threaten the Warsaw Pact.
In response to the Soviet concern over Poland, Adam Michnik, a Solidarity member of Parliament and the editor of the journal Gazeta Wyborca, wrote Tuesday that "Solidarity is not a movement that is in the grips of an anti-Soviet phobia."
A continued push by Solidarity on the issue, which now seems likely, would provide the first substantive test of Soviet President Mikhail S. Gorbachev's toleration for East Bloc experiments in democracy.
As recently as July 6, in a speech before the European Parliament, Gorbachev said that change "in some particular countries . . . is exclusively a matter for the people themselves and of their choice." He added: "Any interference in internal affairs, any attempts to limit the sovereignty of states--both friends and allies or anybody else--are inadmissible."
No Clear Indication
As the Polish reform experiment moves further into uncharted territory, however, there is still no clear indication of whether the Communists would actually relinquish power, regardless of the alliances in the newly elected Parliament.
Another Communist Party official Wednesday appeared to cast grave doubt on the question. Slawomir Wiatr, secretary of the party's Central Committee, said the Polish party "would not take responsibility" for the consequences of a Solidarity attempt to form a government.
"Every thinking man, the more so a politician," Wiatr said, "should realize that we are not a state of parliamentary democracy yet. Having a majority in Parliament is not in itself a sufficient condition to exercise power. It will take us some time still to arrive at a system in which political parties will be able to alternate as ruling parties without destructive results for the state and society. We should all remember that."
President Jaruzelski called Tuesday for an urgent meeting of "main political and social forces" to seek what he called "rational solutions" for Poland's political impasse. No such meeting was held Wednesday, and the president's office would not say when it might occur.
Walesa said he did not know when he would see Jaruzelski.
As the parliamentary caucus of Solidarity and the United Peasants and Democratic parties began, it was uncertain when its resolution might be introduced to the Sejm, but it seemed likely that intense behind-the-scenes negotiations with the Communist leadership would be required first.
THE PLAYERS IN POLAND Solidarity's Lech Walesa has refused to accept any government led by newly elected Communist Premier Czeslaw Kiszczak. Now two smaller parties, longtime Communist allies, agree to back a Solidarity-led coalition, with Walesa as premier. COMMUNIST PARTY: On Aug. 2, Czeslaw Kiszczak was named Poland's premier and immediately tried to persuade Solidarity to join a "grand coalition." But Walesa, whose party holds 161 seats in the Sejm, or lower house of Parliament, blocked that attempt. On Monday, Kiszczak said he would step aside in favor of United Peasants' leader Roman Malinowski. But that idea also was rejected by Solidarity when Malinowski's own party gave the idea virtually no support. SOLIDARITY: Lech Walesa, although committed to a Solidarity-led government, is issuing conflicting signals as to whether he would serve as premier. Solidarity says that if it heads a new government, the sensitive ministries of interior and defense would remain in the hands of the Communists. UNITED PEASANTS' PARTY: Once regarded as the Communists' most important partner, with 76 seats in the 460-seat Sejm. Led by Malinowski, a 54-year-old economist, the United Peasants abandoned a four-decade Communist alliance and endorsed a Solidarity-led coalition headed by Walesa. DEMOCRATIC PARTY: The other key pro-Communist party, which holds 27 seats in Parliament, also bolted the alliance by voting for the Solidarity-led coalition. Like the United Peasants, the Democrats have been seeking more political independence. Led by Jerzy Jozwiak.
POLAND'S SEJM (lower house) Polish United Workers Party (Communists): 173 seats Communist-allied Catholic parties: 23 seats Democratic Party: 27 seats United Peasants' Party: 76 seats Solidarity: 161 seats Total: 460 seatsCopyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times