President Lech Walesa appointed Poland’s new government Monday, the sixth to take office since democratic reforms in 1989 and the first to be headed by a former Communist Party official.
The evening ceremony at the presidential palace ended months of wrangling between Walesa and the left-wing coalition that has governed Poland since former Communists and their allies won parliamentary elections in September, 1993.
Even with a new prime minister and a reshuffled Cabinet, the new government consists of the same coalition partners, and no significant changes in policy or direction are expected.
“There are some differences in personality, but in both cases the people in positions of power are strong in their support for integrating economically, politically and militarily into the Western camp,” one Western diplomat said. “We don’t anticipate any changes.”
The truce between Walesa and the ruling coalition was made possible last week when the coalition, eager to settle its differences with the president, relented in a constitutional dispute over Walesa’s authority to appoint ministers to three key Cabinet posts.
The new government has foreign, defense and Interior ministers from outside the coalition. They were all handpicked by Walesa, and all presumably owe their allegiance to him--and not to newly appointed Prime Minister Jozef Oleksy.
Disagreement over the same three ministries helped bring down the government of former Prime Minister Waldemar Pawlak, who resigned last month after a series of run-ins with Walesa. Walesa claimed that Pawlak had interfered with his constitutional authority over the ministries.
The constitution is ambiguous about the degree of presidential influence, and many experts argued that the coalition was right to stand up to Walesa. The disputed provisions are contained in a hastily written document, known as the small, or interim, constitution, that was put together two years ago and is meant to be replaced by a permanent constitution later this year.
“Everyone knows that from the beginning I was against conflict, against fighting at the top, knowing that what Poland needs is peace and solving problems,” Oleksy said Monday in explaining why he yielded to Walesa’s demands.
Walesa indicated Monday that he is also willing to put differences aside for now. A presidential spokesman said Walesa will sign the 1995 budget legislation today. Walesa had been using the budget bill as leverage over the coalition, threatening to not sign the measure and dissolve Parliament if lawmakers did not agree to his demands.
“There is great work before you to prove to society that this government really is of a new political quality and that it can combat the affairs of this country better than the previous one,” Walesa said after swearing in the new Cabinet.
Oleksy served the past 16 months as Speaker of the Parliament and in the last Communist government was a regional Communist Party secretary and minister of trade unions.