Minutes from a Meeting of the Presidium of the Citizens' Parliamentary Club
In June 1989, Poland held its first semi-free elections since the beginning of Communist Party rule following World War II, in which Communism was soundly defeated by Solidarity activists. Shortly after this election, the newly elected leaders of the opposition formed the Citizens' Parliamentary Club through which they debated potential government structures and the future road for Poland. One of the first topics that the new parliament had to resolve was the presidency. To counter potential conflict with the army and the Soviet Union, the common perception within parliament was that Communist official Wojciech Jaruzelski should remain as Poland's leader. As the minutes from a meeting of the Citizens' Parliamentary Club from July 15, 1989, show, Solidarity leaders had varying views regarding the upcoming election of Jaruzelski for president. At the time, parliament, not the people, elected the president of Poland; Jaruzelski won by one vote, although many Solidarity activists abstained from voting. The process of creating a new political system in a time of uncertainty was complicated, often tense, and full of compromises by all sides, as these notes demonstrate.
Citizens' Parliamentary Club, "Minutes from a Meeting of the Presidium of the Citizens' Parliamentary Club," 15 July 1989, trans. Jan Chowaniec, Archives of the Bureau of Senate Information and Documentation, Cold War International History Project, Documents and Papers, CWIHP (accessed May 14, 2008).
...A. Stelmachowski: On Thursday, Gen. Jaruzelski paid me a visit.... [D]espite his personal unwillingness, he feels obliged to run for it [the presidency]....
An obstacle—Solidarity is explicitly in favor of [General Czeslaw] Kiszczak [Communist Party member and army official].
...A. Stelmachowski:... The question is whether the voting should be open or secret. The General was inclined to recognize a secret vote....
K. Kozlowski: There must be a discussion in the Club on where a secret vote leads us, and where the open one does.
J. Kuron: Nobody will agree to a debate. If there is a debate, we will denigrate him [the President]. Are we anxious to have the President denigrated?
E. Wende:... Are we supposed to save Jaruzelski's presidency?
K. Kozlowski: I would go even further, for an open vote, without debate, without leaving and without demonstration— we are serious people.
A. Wielowieyski:... They may be short 15 to 21 votes—they are "in a flap," they are stretched to the limit. Everyone who doesn't do anything is giving Jaruzelski half a vote.
...A. Balazs: The Club has decided it will not vote for Gen Jaruzelski....
J. Kuron: Everybody votes as he likes, consistent with the will of the electorate. That's what has been decided.
O. Krzyzanowska: The behavior of the SD and ZSL [Democratic Party and United People's Party, both had been supportive of the Communist Party under Communism] is new. We thought that they would elect him. But right now our position begins to be decisive.
...G. Janowski: We have to submit our own candidate.
J. Kuron: Then we would enter into a war with them.
G. Janowski: People have placed great confidence in us. At pre-election meetings they were telling me "a spanking from a parent's hand isn't painful." We are handing everything over to bureaucrats' hands. We say: we are not ready. Why not?—there is Geremek, Trzeciakowski ...
J. Kuron:... For me a prerequisite of a functioning government, which sooner or later we will get, is their having the presidency. Our president is not going to have such prerogatives, he will be a figurehead. Besides, it's a total, confrontational change....