Poland. This year's most important political event was
the September parliamentary elections, which led to a shift
in power. According to
Countryaah, governments and prime ministers change rapidly in
Poland and the parliamentary elections led to the country
getting its eighth government since the peaceful revolution
in 1989. To the surprise of many and despite many cracks in
the facade, the outgoing coalition between the ex-Communist
Democratic Left Alliance (SLD) and the Peasant Party still
had (PSL) has managed to keep the government together for a
full four years, albeit with many government reforms and
Prime Minister changes.
For the Peasant Party PSL (Polskie Stronnictwo Ludowe),
the election was a disaster. The party lost 103 seats in
parliament, the Sejm. Due to the large election defeat,
Waldemar Pawlak was dismissed as party leader and replaced
by the outgoing Minister of Agriculture Jaroslaw Kalinowski.
Perhaps the most sensational thing about the 1997
parliamentary elections was that Marian Krzaklewski, the
leader of the trade union Solidarity, in a short time
managed to gather the Conservative opposition into a
political force with Solidarity as the base. The new
challenger, named Solidarity's election campaign (AWS), took
the entire 201 seats in the sejm. Together with the liberal
coalition party Freedom Union (Unia Wolnosʹ ci), which
captured 60 seats, the two new government parties had a
satisfactory majority: 261 of the 460 seats of the Sejm.
The head of government became chemistry professor Jerzy
Buzek (born 1940), a veteran of Solidarity but unknown to
the general public. Buzek is a Protestant, which is unusual
in Poland. He announced in his government statement that his
center-right government will invest in Christian values. The
powerful Catholic church took a low profile during the
election campaign, but was then given the opportunity to
enjoy some of the new government's first decision: sexual
education was abolished as its own school subject and
abortion rights were curtailed.
In the government, several well-known names, such as the
former Prime Minister Hanna Suchocka, now appear as Minister
of Justice. The Freedom Union Party President Leszek
Balcerowicz resigned as Finance Minister, Janusz
Onyszkiewicz returned to the Ministry of Defense and the
Solidarity Veteran and History Professor Bromislaw Geremek
became Foreign Minister. The anti-Semitic Catholic Gdansk
priest Henryk Jankowski protested that the Jew Geremek was
given a ministerial post.
The turnout was 59%, which is seven percentage points
higher than in the last parliamentary elections, in 1993.
The actual winner, Solidarity leader Marian Krzaklewski,
chose not to become prime minister. Instead, he has set his
sights on the next presidential election.
Severe floods hit Poland during the summer. The rivers
Oder and Neisse rose over their banks, 55 people died and
the water bodies soaked an area twice the size of Gotland.
Thousands of villages and towns became more or less
uninhabitable. Wroclaw, Poland in size the fourth largest
city, was badly injured, but the newly restored city center
managed to save. The damages for the entire flood disaster
were valued at SEK 22 billion. Sweden donated SEK 125
million in disaster relief.
The most important events in foreign policy were that
NATO invited Poland to join the transatlantic defense
alliance from. 1999 and that the EU starts membership
negotiations with Poland. The country continued its
successful economic policy. The new government's more
important tasks include restructuring of agriculture, mining
and heavy industry. Budgetary policy must be tightened, the
strong zloty will hurt exports and lead to a strong trade