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Book Chapter

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Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc


The Polish United Workers' Party (Polska Zjednoczona Partia Robotnicza [PZPR]) suffered what seemed to be a terminal blow in 1989. In elections rigged so that the communists and their old allies were guaranteed 65 percent of the seats in the main house of parliament, the communists did so badly that their old allies deserted them. After what appeared to be a total defeat, all the communist reformers could do was turn the government over to the men and women of Solidarity they had interned and harassed for more than a decade. Then they had to disband themselves and form a new party to inherit the tattered remains of their mantle and resources. Less than four years after what looked like a complete rejection, in the 1993 free parliamentary elections, the successor party to the PZPR, the Social Democrats of Poland (Socjaldemokracja Rzeczypospolitej Polskiej [SdRP]), and its coalition, the Democratic Left Alliance (Sojusz Lewicy Demokratycznej [SLD]), did well enough to dominate the parliament and form a government. Two years later, in 1995, the leader of the SdRP and its coalition's presidential candidate, Aleksander Kwasniewski (a junior member of that last communist government), soundly defeated the Solidarity leader and incumbent president, Lech Wałesa. By 1999, when the coalition turned itself into a party, the SLD was, by far, both the most popular and the most stable party in democratic Poland. As a result, it dominated the parliamentary elections of 2001, leaving Solidarity's old parties so fragmented that they did not get enough of the votes to get seats. In the process, it raised the population's hopes that it could solve Poland's economic problems and bring the same economic boom Poles remembered from 1993 to 1997.

Chapter of

The Left Transformed in Post-Communist Societies: The Cases of East-Central Europe, Russia, and Ukraine


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