Warsaw Embassy Cable on the Election of 1989
One of the most important agreements made by Communist officials and opposition leaders in Poland at the roundtable talks that took place in February through April 1989 was the decision to hold, for the first time, semi-free elections, in which half of the parliamentary seats would be freely contested. In this confidential cable, the American Embassy in Warsaw reported to the U.S. Secretary of State on Poland's upcoming election to be held in June 1989. U.S. officials watched closely as these elections unfolded and as communist rule started to crumble under the pressure of the opposition. As the summary of this document indicates, the results were unpredictable, yet exciting. These elections opened up the political process in Poland and led to greater changes throughout Eastern Europe, eventually resulting in the collapse of communism in the Soviet bloc.
Warsaw Embassy to U.S. Secretary of State, "Election '89: The Year Of Solidarity," 19 April 1989, Cold War International History Project, Documents and Papers, CWIHP (accessed May 14, 2008).
...2. SUMMARY: THE ELECTIONS IN JUNE ARE, FOR THE REGIME, AN UNPREDICTABLE DANGER AND, FOR THE OPPOSITION, AN ENORMOUS OPPORTUNITY. THE AUTHORITIES, HAVING STAKED A GREAT DEAL, ARE HOPING FOR SOME MODEST SUCCESS, BUT THEY ARE MORE LIKELY TO MEET TOTAL DEFEAT AND GREAT EMBARRASSMENT. THE PARTY, DESPITE ITS TOUTED SUPERIOR ORGANIZATION, IS VASTLY DISLIKED AND NEARLY INCAPABLE OF PERSUADING AN ELECTORATE THROUGH TRADITIONAL CAMPAIGN TECHNIQUES, WITH WHICH IT HAS HAD NO EXPERIENCE. COMMUNIST-STYLE TRADITIONAL PROPAGANDA WILL NOT BE ENOUGH IN THIS NEW GAME. UNDER THE RULES IMPOSED BY SOLIDARITY AT THE ROUNDTABLE, IT IS DIFFICULT TO SEE HOW THE PARTY'S CORE SUPPORT WILL BE ABLE TO ELECT MANY - OR ANY - CANDIDATES TO THE SENATE. APPARENTLY STILL SEEING THE POSSIBLE OUTCOME IN A DIFFERENT WAY, THE REGIME MAY HAVE COMMITTED THE SIN OF MANY CRUMBLING POWER ELITES IN SERIOUSLY UNDERESTIMATING THE STRENGTH AND DEPTH OF ITS OPPOSITION. CONVERSELY THERE ARE SIGNS THAT SOLIDARITY'S INEXPERIENCE AND DISORGANIZATION ARE BEING OVERCOME; PREPARATIONS FOR FULL AND UNIFIED SOLIDARITY PARTICIPATION IN THE ELECTIONS ARE WELL ADVANCED. AS A CORE OF ACTIVITY - AND VOTERS - THE NEWLY LEGALIZED UNION WILL SIGN UP SEVERAL MILLION MEMBERS BY ELECTION DAY. ALTHOUGH THE PUBLIC MOOD IS FAR FROM EUPHORIC, BOTH AWARENESS AND SOME ENTHUSIASM ARE GROWING. BY ELECTION TIME, THE APPEAL OF A GENUINELY FREE ELECTORAL PROCESS WILL BE COMPELLING AND THE TURNOUT WILL BE LARGE. THE LIKELIHOOD OF A SOLIDARITY SWEEP IN THE SENATE ELECTIONS WILL CREATE THE CONDITIONS FOR A LEGISLATIVE AND CONSTITUTIONAL CRISIS. THIS, IN TURN, WILL FORCE A RESOLUTION OF THE PROFOUND ISSUES OF POWER SHARING AND POLAND'S POLITICAL FUTURE; EXACTLY THE OBJECTIVE OF THOSE WHO FORCED THE REGIME TO ACCEPT THIS EXTRAORDINARY ELECTION. END SUMMARY....