Solidarity claims victory in Poland
Exit polls: Conservative bloc tops ex-Communists
September 21, 1997
Web posted at: 6:39 p.m. EDT (2239 GMT)
WARSAW, Poland (CNN) -- Four years after being drummed out of
office, the conservative Solidarity bloc claimed a surprise
victory after a strong showing in Sunday's Polish
Exit polls for Polish television showed that Solidarity would
take about 33 percent of the vote, compared to about 27
percent for the Democratic Left Alliance, the party made up
of ex-Communists that ousted Solidarity in 1993. Official
results aren't expected until Wednesday.
Although that result would not give Solidarity an outright
majority in the 460-seat Sejm, or lower house of parliament,
it would likely give the party the first chance to form a
coalition government to return to power.
Three smaller parties that split about 27 percent of the vote
-- the Freedom Union, the Polish Peasants' Party and the
Movement for Poland's Reconstruction -- were considered
likely coalition partners. The centrist Freedom Union, which
has roots in the Solidarity movement, is the strongest of
"If this victory is officially confirmed, we will correct all
the mistakes that have been made so far," said Solidarity
leader Marian Krzaklewski, addressing a jubilant crowd at
party headquarters in Warsaw after the poll was broadcast.
Krzaklewski took over leadership of Solidarity from Lech
Walesa, who founded the organization as a trade union in the
Communist era and used it to become the country's first
The exit poll results were a surprise because opinion polls
prior to the elections had indicated neck-and-neck support
for the two major blocs.
Solidarity, ex-Communists not far apart
Though the election was being contested along old party
lines, Solidarity and the ex-Communists -- reborn as
free-market social democrats -- are no longer worlds apart
ideologically. Both share strategic international policy
goals and key market economy ideals.
The new parliament is considered unlikely to bring major
changes to the government. Instead, its most challenging job
will be steering the country toward NATO and European Union
membership in the coming years.
Poland's president, Aleksander Kwasniewski, whose post was
not up for election Sunday, is from the Democratic Left
Alliance and will decide which party gets the first chance to
form a government. He declined to announce his choice Sunday,
pending official results.
"But democracy means democracy, and results have to be
respected," said Kwasniewski, who ousted Walensa from the
presidency two years ago.
"A positive effect of this election is that the political
scene is clear," the president said. "We have a strong
rightist bloc, a strong leftist bloc, we have a strong party
in the center."
In addition to the Sejm, Polish voters Sunday also cast
ballots for 100 seats in the upper house of parliament, or
The vote marks the third free parliamentary election since
the fall of Communism in 1989, and the first following a full
four-year parliamentary term.
Roughly 28.5 million Poles were registered to vote. Turnout
was estimated to be about 50 to 55 percent.