The State of the Commonwealth in 1992

Jacek Koronacki

The rescheduling of the parliamentary elections from May to October 1991 and the adoption of the proportionality rule led to a sharp fragmentation in the Polish Parliament. However, Bronislaw Geremek, a leading MP who engineered this system of proportionality (he headed the parliamentary committee which recommended it ), denied that it would become detrimental to Poland's attempts to shake off the communist legacy. During a TV interview shortly before the 1991 elections, Mr. Geremek accused the interviewing journalist of unwarranted pessimism. Was his optimism based on the belief that, in view of the forthcoming fragmentation, his own Unia Demokratyczna [a left-of-center political party in Poland, Ed.] would have a better chance of seizing power than under the majority system?

Mr. Geremek's possible hope materialized last July, at least to some extent. The Suchocka government is a coalition government of seven parties but it is dominated by UD. It commands a fragile majority. Were it not for the fact that the 1952 Constitution (still in force) enables one to be both a minister and an MP, Ms. Suchocka would not have been able to pass some bills in the Parliament. Each and every proposal of the government is met with a strong opposition of various factions.

From the very beginning, the Suchocka government was faced with a multitude of industrial strikes. Hers was the first government in three years that had not been offered a honeymoon by the tired society. Hence the necessity of prolonged negotiations with the trade unions as if they were an elected body representing society at large, and a voodoo cure called "pakt dla przedsiebiorstw" [an enterprise pact, Ed.] which is currently in the making.

Soon after the Suchocka government was formed, Aleksander Hall and his Frakcja Prawicy Demokratycznej [the Democratic Right Faction, Ed.] left UD. The move did not weaken the government much because Mr. Hall promised to continue supporting it, but, possibly, it weakened UD relative to its long-time ally, Kongres Liberalno-Demokratyczny, a party which I consider to be pseudo-liberal so far as its economic program is concerned. KLD's idea of privatizing state-owned companies, now already under way, is to proceed by means of privatizing the management of these companies. Thus state bureaucracy is really in charge of the whole process.

The third most important member of the governing coalition is Zjednoczenie Chrzescijansko-Narodowe [Christian National Union, Ed.]. For that party, entering into a coalition with UD and KLD seemed impossible. Yet the coalition materialized under the banner of opposition to the so-called lustration, or weeding out from public offices those people whose communist record was particularly unsavory. The majority of the ZChN leadership joined the ranks of the antagonists of former Prime Minister Jan Olszewski, despite the fact that ZChN had been a part of Mr. Olszewski's government. ZChN's economic stance is even worse than that of UD and KLD. Instead of talking about the market economy founded on liberty, private property, work and enterpreneurship, ZChN leadership talks about a "social market economy" which, in my view, amounts to socialism. The socialist sympathies of the ZChN's deputy prime minister,Henryk Goryszewski, can be easily discerned. He is known for his willingness to talk about the "kulaks" and the "robber barons" while doing precious little to eliminate real corruption in government ranks.

At the same time, the budget deficit is soaring and so are the taxes. The government is more than reluctant to create the institution of the Treasury as an independent entity. The government's position in regard to the Pension Fund and to deregulation of health insurance is very much the same.

These policies tend to create interest groups tied to the new bureaucracy or to the old communist nomenklatura. These groups have a vested interest in keeping reforms under their control, and they effectively control a vast share of the market and the money flow. The banking system is still partly controlled by former apparatchiks.

As long as the current coalition stays in power, one should not expect any serious pro-market reforms at all, especially that the support for such reforms of the other four parties represented in the government coalition, the agrarian Porozumienie Ludowe , Stronnictwo Ludowo-Chrzescijanskie, the tiny Partia Chrzescijanskich Demokratow and Polski Program Gospodarczy, is likewise dubious. Poland is thus in real danger of following the Latin American model of political development and becoming a state ruled by corruption and oligarchies, with a rudimentary market economy, a rudimentary welfare system and general poverty. The former communists would like nothing better, it seems to me, while the center-right opposition is deeply fragmented and has no clear-cut vision of market reforms. The only exception is Unia Polityki Realnej, a socially conservative and economically liberal party. One should hope that the other anti- communist opposition parties willeventually adopt an economic program similar to that proposed by the UPR.

Along with the ex-communists, UD, KLD and ZChN, President Walesa opposed the lustration, and he is primarily reponsible for the collapse of the Olszewski government. He has flirted with the ex-communists, while considering his former associate and leader of the centrist Porozumienie Centrum, Jaroslaw Kaczynski, his personal enemy. He is at odds with Jan Parys, the leader of Ruch dla Trzeciej Rzeczypospolitej, a group closely co-operating with Olszewski's RdR. All these leaders say that the President's policies foster "recommunization" of Poland. President Walesa prevented UD from monopolizing power in 1990 but now, while he is still reluctant to let that party have a free hand in Polish affairs, he supports it in its efforts to marginalize the center-right opposition. And yet, if a strong and united center- right coalition with a clear-cut economic policy emerged, President Walesa might well prove flexible enough to take its side.

Jacek Koronacki is a noted political commentator and chairman of the Department of Statistics at the Polish Academy of Sciences in Warsaw.

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