Poland Table of Contents
Upon taking office in December 1990, Walesa offered the post of prime minister to Jan Olszewski, a respected attorney who had defended prominent dissidents in the 1960s and 1970s and who had a long association with Solidarity. When Olszewski rejected the offer because of Walesa's insistence on controlling key cabinet positions, Walesa offered the position to Jan Bielecki, the leader of a small reformist party, the Liberal-Democratic Congress. Believing that this would be a short-lived interim government, Bielecki accepted and conceded to Walesa the right to oversee cabinet selection. The new government retained several key members of the Mazowiecki cabinet. Leszek Balcerowicz continued to coordinate economic policy, and the widely respected Krzysztof Skubiszewski remained in charge of foreign affairs.
By his involvement in forming the Bielecki government, Walesa expanded the ill-defined powers of the presidency. His resolve to be an activist president caused alarm in the parliament, intellectual circles, and the press. Some people accused Walesa of harboring ambitions to attain the powers of Józef Pilsudski, the strong-willed leader in the interwar years (see Interwar Poland , ch. 1). Although he vigorously denied such charges, Walesa's popularity plunged in early 1990 as his prime minister failed to deliver the promised acceleration of economic reform and improvement of government services. During his tenure, Bielecki made little headway in privatizing large state enterprises and dismantling the managerial bureaucracy left by the communists.
By the summer of 1990, factionalism and the obstructionism of remaining communist legislators prevented the Sejm from enacting major legislation sponsored by the Bielecki government. Therefore, with Walesa's support, Bielecki asked the Sejm to revise the constitution and grant the prime minister authority to issue economic decrees with the force of law. The proposal was defeated, and the gridlock between executive and legislative branches continued.
Walesa grew increasingly resentful of the political, institutional, and legal constraints placed on his office. He felt especially encumbered by the composition of the Sejm, which opposed much of his economic agenda. Therefore, Walesa called for parliamentary elections in the spring of 1991 to install a fully democratic Sejm. Because his timetable could not be met, a long power struggle between the Sejm and the president over parliamentary election legislation ensued, and Walesa sustained a major political defeat. The president had favored an election law that would end the fragmentation of the Sejm by fostering large parties and coalitions. However, the parties formerly allied with the communists joined other anti-Walesa factions in the Sejm in enacting a system that allocated seats in strict proportion to candidates' percentages of the total vote in thirty-seven multimember electoral districts. Such a system, Walesa rightly feared, would enable dozens of minor and regional parties to win seats in the parliament by receiving only a few thousand votes.
Data as of October 1992