Polish Voters Reject Harsh Solidarity Reform Plan
Dark-horse candidate promises bright economic future. AFTER ELECTION
THE Solidarity trade union's first political and economic experiment after toppling communist rule has ended in shambles. Sunday's election began as a referendum on two competing philosophies within Solidarity. It ended with Solidarity leaders wondering whether large segments of Polish society had begun to call the vision itself into question.
Stung by defeat in the nation's first popular presidential elections, Prime Minister Tadeusz Mazowiecki resigned Monday, saying it was pointless to continue after the electorate had so overwhelmingly rejected his course of ambitious, but difficult, economic reforms.
``The election results clearly show that my vision of political democracy has been questioned,'' Mr. Mazowiecki said in an address to the nation. ``Society has made its choice and I must draw the consequences from this decision.''
Mazowiecki, Eastern Europe's first noncommunist prime minister, was defeated in Sunday's elections by Solidarity leader Lech Walesa and enigmatic 'emigr'e businessman Stanislaw Tyminski, a political unknown in Poland until just a few weeks ago.
Mr. Tyminski's strong showing with 23 percent of the vote to Mazowiecki's 18 percent and Mr. Walesa's 40 percent forced a runoff, set for Dec. 9. It also stunned a splintered Solidarity, whose schism over the pace of reforms had prompted the contest between Walesa and Mazowiecki.
In Gdansk, Walesa seemed caught off balance by the extent of Tyminski's success. ``I had hoped for calm,'' he said. ``But I don't see calm.''
Many Warsaw residents also seemed shocked. ``I never thought Poles would believe in such fairy tales,'' said a middle-aged woman of Tyminski's promise that he will quickly right the floundering Polish economy.
Wearing Western clothes and exuding prosperity, Tyminski's pitch struck a responsive chord in the ``second Poland,'' the small country towns and villages where he received much of his support, according Gazeta Wyborcza, the nation's largest newspaper. The newspaper said in an editorial that Tyminski appealed to Polish voters because he ``came from a world of success.''
An unknown before the start of the campaign, Tyminski is reported to have left Poland in 1969, leaving behind a mother and sister in Warsaw. After some months in Sweden, he emigrated to Canada, studied computer science, and began a computer systems company, whose profits reportedly made him wealthy.
During a visit to Peru in 1980, Tyminski started an oil distributing company and later opened a restaurant in the jungle city of Iquitos. Tyminski also is reported to have gained wealth by forming a cable television company there. In 1985, he returned to Toronto to run Transductions Ltd., which has sales of about $8.4 million.
Although Walesa predictably led the field, Tyminski's second-place success was a bitter signal to supporters of both the charismatic trade union chairman and Mazowiecki. The two men had disagreed little over the essentials of the reforms course. Each shared the vision of a democratic and prosperous Poland, although styles and approaches differed.
Mazowiecki was Walesa's choice for prime minister in August 1989 and he engineered his appointment. But the pugnacious Nobel Peace Prize laureate soon complained that Mazowiecki was moving too slowly and launched a campaign against a government he himself largely created.
Mazowiecki said before his resignation that he would not be responsible for campaign ``promises made by other candidates. They are now responsible for what they have been promising.''
The prime minister had charged that Walesa was making easy promises of pay increases and full employment while his government slogged through the task of transforming Poland's moribund economy into a free market. Walesa and Mazowiecki also accused Tyminski of pandering to fears raised by soaring prices and unemployment.
Tyminski, in turn, caused an uproar by accusing Mazowiecki of betraying the nation, saying his government's tight economic policies had plunged Poles into even deeper poverty. Tyminski, who returned to Poland a few months ago after spending 21 years in Canada and Peru, says his business acumen will help turn Poland's economy around. ``I intend to win these elections,'' he says. ``I'm not afraid of Walesa. I'm not afraid of anyone.''
Walesa has sharply attacked Tyminski. ``One has to have some background here, to have been living here, even been in prison here,'' Walesa said, referring to to Solidarity activists locked up in the 1980s under martial law.
The 42-year-old Tyminski's background has been the subject of widespread speculation in the Polish press. The former head of the fringe Libertarian Party of Canada, he has complained bitterly about his coverage in the press. He has denied reports that he was refused military service because of mental illness.
He does, however, puzzle reporters with his economic policy. Pressed about his economic recovery strategy, he replies: ``I want to make this country rich and prosperous. It will be better within a month. We must change the banking system, which is Stalinist. We need to have better division of the budgets, like the famous pie drawings.''
Walesa, who is the favorite in the runoff, called Sunday's results ``an accelerated lesson in democracy,'' a vindication of his conviction that reforms must move faster and that Mazowiecki's government was out touch with the people's suffering.
``These mistakes today are not dangerous, but tomorrow they might be,'' Walesa said. ``Let us draw the conclusions - what has really happened and why.''