Friday marks 32nd anniversary of Poland’s groundbreaking elections

32 years ago, on June 4, 1989, under agreements between the authorities of the People's Republic of Poland and part of the opposition, partially free parliamentary elections were held in the country. The victory of the opposition movement “Solidarity'' opened a new era in the history of Poland and influenced the process of the fall of communism in Central Europe.

The decision to organise the elections was made by the communist regime after the negotiations of the Round Table. The anti-communist opposition "Solidarity" movement was allowed to compete for 35 pct of the seats in the parliament, while the ruling Polish United Workers’ Party (PZPR) and its allied parties had 65 pct of seats guaranteed.

Another part of the Round Table agreement about the elections was the vote to the Senate, which was entirely free, and conducted in single-member constituencies.

The elections of June 4 turned out to be a real plebiscite about the reign of the communists, and the results showed clearly that the Polish society was against it. After two rounds of the elections (the second was held on June 18), the opposition won 99 out of 100 seats in the Senate (the remaining one was taken by an independent candidate) and 161 seats in Sejm, the lower house.

A total of 250 seats in the National Assembly (combined Sejm and Senate) could mean trouble for the communist side in the election of the President, but finally, general Wojciech Jaruzelski became the head of state. But the success of “Solidarity” in the election led to electing the first non-communist Prime Minister since WWII. On August 24, 1989, Sejm appointed Tadeusz Mazowiecki to this position.

The elections of June 4, 1989, were the first step towards dismantling the communist system in Poland and the other countries of the Warsaw Pact.

Until today, Poles are strongly divided in the assessment of both the Round Table and the June elections, which were a consequence of its deliberations and decisions. Proponents believe that at that time, there was no other solution than a compromise with the rulers. Opponents, on the other hand, emphasise that the concessions made by the “Solidarity” to the communists were too far-reaching.

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