There was no miracle at the polls for the regime of Gen. Wojciech Jaruzelski. Although the final results will be known only after the second ballot, on June 18, the popular verdict is already unmistakable. It was a landslide. Solidarity won most of its contests at the first go, and may now hope to conquer virtually all the 100 seats in the Senate as well as all 161 for which it was entitled to compete in the lower house, or Sejm. The ruling coalition will not even get all the remaining 299 Sejm seats since, despite Lech Walesa’s last-minute hint not to do so, Polish voters massively crossed out the names of most of the party V.1.P.s on a special list of thirty-five who were to be elected by the nation as a whole on a single ballot. The government clearly miscalculated: Solidarity now has a veto in Parliament, and even General Jaruzelski’s election as president will not be possible without its backing. The regime made a false assumption. It has not been rewarded for its recent opening; rather, it was judged and sentenced for its past performance, including its military coup.
This election was a referendum, and the defeat of the party was matched by the success of Solidarity. All its leaders were elected triumphantly, even those who did not have the blessing of the Catholic Church. (Notably, Jacek Kuron in Warsaw and Adam Michnik in Silesia won their battle for the Sejm despite the fact that on the eve of the poll, the Polish primate, Jozef Cardinal Glemp, gave an ostentatious audience to their respective right-wing Catholic rivals. Jan Jozef Lipski, whose predicament is described below, was forced into a second ballot.)
Yet, the general victory was tempered by two considerations. First, there are the 38 percent of Polish voters who stayed at home, a higher proportion of abstentions than was recorded in the 1987 referendum, when Solidarity called for a boycott. This is a reminder for Lech Walesa and his friends that for most of their compatriots, after more than seven lean years, the proof of the pudding is in the eating. The second problem springs from the very size of the success. Solidarity is driven by the logic of Poland’s historic compromise to fill the political void. Will it now accept the offer to enter the government or at least to join the ruling coalition as some kind of critical partner?
Poland is setting a precedent for the transition in Eastern Europe–in rather special circumstances. The following brief extracts from my electoral diary try to stress the contradictions, hopes and dangers contained in the new situation and to look beyond the poll itself at the potential splits and realignments in this apprenticeship of democracy.
Changing Moods. In the Saxon Gardens in the heart of Warsaw, the chestnut trees were blooming beautifully in the mid-May sunshine. In their shadow, the new national headquarters of Solidarity, a dignified but rather decrepit building that served as a bank before the war, was full of electoral bustle. Throughout the country, posters large and small, on trams and buses, on walls and shop windows, always with a picture or a signature of Walesa, urged the electorate to vote for Solidarity. What was criminal a few weeks before had become perfectly legal.
Clearly this was history in the making. Yet just as obviously, people had no sense of a great occasion. The mood was very different from the almost unanimous euphoria of 1980, when the strikers of Gdansk first won the right to form free trade unions. Some even thought that the result of the June 4 vote might be very close. Within a few days the forecasts altered altogether, and the prospect of a landslide raised questions about strategy and the very nature of the historic compromise. If Solidarity told its supporters to vote against all party candidates without distinction, it might find itself in Parliament without its negotiating partners. But if it urged its electorate to back some "reformers," it would be seen to be moving toward an open alliance with the Communist Party. Though hesitant and divided, the leadership of Solidarity opted for a compromise. On the eve of the election, Walesa said publicly on television that he would vote for the national list.