Solidarity Comes to Power
Warsaw Embassy Cable, How to Elect Jaruzelski Without Voting for Him, and Will He Run?
This report analyzes the peculiar dilemma that Solidarity leaders faced in the aftermath of their landslide election victory in June. Their success had been based on opposition to the communist regime, but the framework that had allowed that success was based on a compromise with that regime. The practical issue that best highlighted the apparent incompatibility of those two commitments was the proposed election as president of General Jaruzelski, the Communist party leader. Would support for Jaruzelski mean betraying the Solidarity electorate? Would refusing to support Jaruzelski mean recklessly ripping up the Round Table agreement? In addition to providing third-party analysis of this dilemma, the US ambassador’s report also reveals the influence that the United States exerted on the ongoing drama. The ambassador himself describes providing informal advice to key Solidarity leaders, and the upcoming visit to Poland of President Bush held out the promise of significant Western economic assistance.
To see the associated Teaching Module on Solidarity Comes to Power, click here.
U.S. Embassy Warsaw to U.S. Secretary of State, "How to Elect Jaruzelski Without Voting For Him, And Will He Run?," 23 June 1989, Cold War International History Project, Documents and Papers, CWIHP (accessed May 14, 2008).
Primary Source— Excerpt
[From: US Embassy Warsaw; To: US Secretary of State; Date: June 23, 1989]country is to avoid civil war. However, they are very reluctant to vote for him and are receptive to suggestions on how the task might be managed without them having to do so. Jaruzelski will not accept nomination unless he can see that the voters are there to assure his election desite likely defections from the ranks of communist and allied deputies. On the eve of President Bush’s visit, the situation remains fluid and very delicate.
2. Most of the Solidarity leaders with whom we have spoken in recent days are convinced (in varying degrees) of the following facts:
A. If Jaruzelski is not elected president, there is a genuine danger of civil war ending, in most scenarios, with a reluctant but brutal Soviet intervention;
B. All Solidarity candidates were forced during their campaigns to promise publicly not to vote for Jaruzelski for president;
C. The government coalition has the numbers for him. As many as forty or fifty from the ZSL [Peasant Party] and SD [Democratic Party], and hard-liners from the party on the other end of the spectrum, will probably vote against or abstain to punish him for the party’s electoral humiliation.
D. Although it was never put in writing, the implicit deal at the Roundtable was that Solidarity should have the Senate in a free vote and Jaruzelski would be president for the next six years.
3. There is much hand-wringing going on, with some Solidarity senators saying they will vote for Jaruzelski if they must to save the country, even if it means ending their political careers virtually before they have begun.
4. I had dinner last night with some leading Solidarity legislators, who had better remain nameless, and jotted down a few numbers for them on the back of an embassy matchbook. I also reviewed for them an arcane Western political practice known as head-counting. What the matchbook calculation revealed is that there are a total of 560 seats in the combined Sejm [Lower House] and Senate. The government coalition has 299, Solidarity 260, and there is one independent. The required quorum for a presidential election is two-thirds of the combined membership of the two houses. Of those present, a majority of votes is needed to elect. Ergo, if a large number of deputies are ill or otherwise unable to attend the election session, there will still be a quorum and one in which the government coalition majority is so great that only truly major defection from party discipline could prevent Jaruzelski’s election. The Solidarity deputies and senators who were present could safely abstain.
5. My interlocutors left for home saying that the numbers were indeed interesting but there would still be a problem in persuading enough people to stay away from the vote. . . .
7. The whole situation is made more complex by the time pressures arising from President Bush’s visit. The plan has been to hold the presidential election on July 5, but it may not prove possible because the newly-elected deputies are disputing hotly the distribution of committee chairmanships in the new Sejm, of which Solidarity is apparently demanding a share despite its minority status. The following two days Jaruzelski and Rakowski must attend a Warsaw Pact summit in “of all places,” Bucharest. Jaruzelski has called Gorbachev to ask whether the summit could not be postponed but Gorbachev allegedly said it was impossible because of the tensions within the Pact between Romania and Hungary. Jaruzelski feels he must make an appearance to reassure his Warsaw Pact partners that things are not out of control in Poland. Consequently, there is a definite possibility that Jaruzelski could either be elected on the very day of the President’s arrival (unlikely, since it is a Sunday), or postpone the election and receive him in his old capacity as chairman of the council of state.
8. Comment: There have probably been few occasions when an American President has arrived for an official visit in a more fluid and fast-moving political situation than the present one in Poland.
Davis, US Ambassador
How to Cite this Source
U.S. Embassy Warsaw, "Warsaw Embassy Cable, How to Elect Jaruzelski Without Voting for Him, and Will He Run?" Making the History of 1989, Item #378, http://chnm.gmu.edu/1989/items/show/378 (accessed May 27 2016, 4:27 am).