Vital Signs

A New Solidarity

The victory of Lech Kaczynski of the Law and Justice Party (with around 54 percent of votes cast) over Donald Tusk of the Civic Platform Party in the second round of the presidential election on October 23, 2005, augurs well for Poland.  The socially conservative Kaczynski had claimed to represent the ideals of Catholic social thought and the original Solidarity workers’ trade-union movement.  By contrast, the free-market-oriented Tusk had voiced the need for a “liberal experiment” in Poland and had only mildly reacted to the abuses of power and “crony capitalism” of the former communist insiders, who had regrouped after 1989 as the Alliance of the Democratic Left (Sojusz Lewicy Demokratycznej, SLD), holding both the presidency under Aleksander Kwasniewski (1995-2005) and a majority of support in parliament (Sejm) for most of the postcommunist era.  Indeed, the patriotic Olszewski premiership had been brought down in 1992 (by a hostile coalition in the Sejm) when the minister of the interior, Antoni Maciere-wicz, had attempted to expose the secret networks of the former communist security services, with which Polish state institutions were apparently enmeshed.  The Solidarity Electoral Action (Akcja Wyborcza Solidarnosc) coalition had held power in the Sejm from 1997 to 2001, but its tenure in office proved disastrous, with unemployment rates in the country hovering around 20 percent, where they...

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