Poland’s partially free elections led to a peaceful collapse of communism


China, June 4, 1989: Chinese Communist Party’s brutal crackdown on peaceful protests led to a massacre at Tiananmen Square

June 4th will celebrate the 32nd anniversary twice. The first commemorates the defeat of the Polish Communist Party in some free elections, and the second commemorates the bloody crackdown on peaceful student protests by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) at Tiananmen Square. Beijing.

On June 4, 1989, the ruling Polish Communist Party, known as the Polish United Workers’ Party (PUWP), was defeated in a mixed election in communist Poland.

The form of the election was agreed during negotiations between the Polish Communist camp and the so-called “solidarity” camp in early 1989, said Professor Yachek Reginia Zakarski, a political scientist and historian at the University of Lodz. Stated. In Poland.

The Epoch Times
An overview of the Polish government and opposition roundtable held in Warsaw, Poland, on February 6, 1989. (-/ Getty Images via AFP)

Negotiations known as Polish Round Table Not all anti-communist opposition groups or movements are included. Not all of them participated in the negotiations or on an equal footing, Professor Reginia-Zacharski said in an interview with the Epoch Times.

The Polish “solidarity” movement was born in 1980 by Polish workers protesting the deteriorating living environment of communist Poland. Solidarity became the first free trade union in the eastern (communist) block, independent of the administration, and rapidly grew as an anti-communist opposition group calling for economic and political reforms in the country.

By the beginning of 1981, Solidarity had 10 million members, including 80% of the Polish workforce. In response, the Communist government issued martial law, proclaiming a crackdown on the movement.

After the martial law was lifted in 1983, the solidarity movement began to reappear, despite continued crackdowns on its members. In 1988, when a big wave of strikes spread across the country, the Polish communist government announced its intention to negotiate with solidarity.

About six months later, a roundtable meeting began between the solidarity-led opposition and the coalition led by the ruling Communist Party (formally known as PUWP).

“Communists didn’t want to give up power unconditionally,” said Reginia Zakarski. He explained that the negotiating parties agreed to create a previously nonexistent Senate and free elections to the Senate.

However, Communists wanted to ensure that they would win a majority in the House of Representatives, saying that the House of Representatives was the main seat and reserved 65% of the seats for them. The scientist explained and added that only candidates approved by the coalition are possible. Aim for these seats.

Is remaining Thirty-five percent of the seats were available to opposition and independent candidates in freely contested races.

Therefore, the 1989 election was not considered partially free, but rather a mixed election, Reginia Zakarski said, adding that it was not considered free by the Council of Europe.

On June 4, 1989, solidarity candidates won 160 out of 161 seats, while Communist candidates won only 5 out of 299 seats, with a turnout of 62%. In addition, 92 of the 100 Senate seats went to solidarity, with no Communists winning any.

“It was certainly a shock to the Communists. From their point of view, it was a disaster,” said Reginia Zakarski. He believed that the outcome of the first round of the election was a surprise to everyone.

Regina Zakarski is on both sides of the political fence, as a significant number of solidarity activists, and perhaps most of Polish society, feared that Communists facing such disasters would resort to their use. I felt a sense of fear, continued Regina Zakarski. Just as they imposed martial law on the country in 1981,

Poland’s economic situation at that time was very difficult, Reginia Zakarski said. “Hyperinflation has intensified, wages have reached millions of dollars, but the purchasing power of Polish currencies has fallen to almost zero.”

In Reginia-Zacharski’s opinion, the dramatic and traumatic news about the massacre at Tiananmen Square in Beijing on the day of the election fueled such horror. “Martial law has given Polish society a very deep trauma,” he added.

A second vote was needed to fill the vacancy, but election law did not allow candidates who failed to get the required 50% of the votes to run for the second vote, Reginia-Zacharski said. He said. Therefore, he explained that the Communist administration changed the election law to allow candidates who lost in the first round to run in the second round.

As a result of the second round of voting on June 18, solidarity won one seat in the House of Representatives assigned to free election candidates, but became vacant after the first vote, out of the remaining eight seats in the Senate. Won 7 seats. The remaining one seat in the Senate was filled by independent candidates. Communists did not have representation in the Senate.

Communists in the second round All seats acquired It was reserved for them in the House of Representatives, but did not get representation in the Senate. Those who did not vote for the Communist candidate did not participate in the second vote, so the turnout was only 25%, but the risk of losing a designated seat was very low, Reginia- Zacharski said.

Of the 299 House of Commons seats designated by the coalition, the PUWP received only 173 seats, with the remaining seats being won by the bloc party.

Aftermath of the election

The Epoch Times
Parliamentary Hall of the Polish House of Representatives (Same) in Warsaw, Poland, November 24, 2017. Same passed a resolution condemning the ideology and consequences of the Bolshevik Revolution. (Krzysztof Białoskórski / Governor of Same).

According to Reginia-Zacharski, the impact of the election turned out to be much greater than expected. The so-called deconstruction of the communist camp began shortly after the election, even though Solidarity had only 161 of the 460 seats in the House of Representatives.

After the election, the two largest satellite parties, the Allied Farmers’ Party and the Democratic Party, began to work with solidarity. Coalition government Reginia Zakarski said, with solidarity led by Tadeusz Mazowiecki, the non-Communist Prime Minister.

However, the government was not completely controlled by solidarity because the Communist Party held key positions such as the Minister of Interior and the Minister of Defense, Reginia Zakarski explained. The new parliament was also elected by one vote. Communist President Wojciech Jarzelski, A martial law architect declared in Poland to suppress solidarity. Jarzelski was in that position for over a year until the first Polish presidential election after World War II.

The political system designed during the roundtable was supposed to work after the election, but it didn’t happen, Reginia Zakarski said.

A satellite party activist who formed a coalition with the Communists said, “Communists have no absolute support … [and] Polish United Workers’ Party [PUWP] After the June elections, Poland is no longer a hegemonic political group, “said Reginia Zakarski.

The number of members of the Polish Communist Party decreased from about 3 million in 1980 to about 1 million in the fall of 1989. In January 1990, PUWP was disbanded.

In 1991, the first truly free parliamentary elections were held in postwar Poland. This was a prerequisite for the country to join the Council of Europe, Reginia-Zacharski said.

June 4, 1989 at Tiananmen Square

The Epoch Times
Student leader Wang Dan calls for a city-wide march on May 27, 1989 at Tiananmen Square in Beijing. (Mark Avery / AP)

On the same day Poland began a peaceful transition from communism, Chinese PLA soldiers and tanks entered the country’s capital and killed hundreds, and perhaps thousands, of unarmed protesters at Tiananmen Square. It was.

University students and staff across the country who participated in national demonstrations called for human rights, the eradication of corruption, and democratic reforms.

Chinese communist leaders may have been monitoring processes and changes taking place in the eastern blocks, including the Soviet Union and Poland, saying, “These processes, once started, are on the verge of escalating. It had no potential. [and] It was unstoppable, “said Reginia Zakarski. However, he added, it is unclear whether these observations influenced their decision to mercilessly subdue the protests.

In 1989, the New York Times corrected an Italian reporter who used the term “Tiananmen tragedy” in a question to Jiang Zemin, who became General Secretary of the Chinese Communist Party following a bloody resolution on June 4. I reported that I did. ..

According to the New York Times, Jean said: I don’t think there was a tragedy at Tiananmen Square. What actually happened was a counter-revolutionary rebellion aimed at overthrowing the socialist regime against the Communist Party leadership. “

Leo Timm contributed to this report.

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