Prague, Feb. 9 (RFE/RL) - Poland has a new cabinet but serious questions remain whether its policies will differ much from those conducted by the previous team.
The cabinet was put together by Prime Minister designate Wlodzimierz
Cimoszewicz after a week of intense negotiations between the
post-communist Democratic Left Alliance and the Peasant Party. The
two groups have been in a parliamentary coalition since October 1993,
when they won a majority of seats in the popular ballot.
Cimoszewicz succeeds Jozef Oleksy, who headed the government for
nine months until he was forced to resign last week, following
allegations that he had been passing sensitive information to Soviet
and Russian intelligence agents since the early 1980s.
Two days ago, the Cimoszewicz-led cabinet was sworn in by President
Aleksander Kwasniewski. It is expected to be formally approved by the
parliament sometime next week.
Talking yesterday with western journalists, Cimoszewicz
said that "the formation of a new government has huge significance."
He went on to say that the new cabinet will continue policies of
rapprochement with the West, and insisted that the entry into NATO
and the European Union remains the government's top priority. He also said it would continue free market reforms of liberalization and privatization. The Polish media have carried similar reports on Cimoszewicz's declarations (today's
"Gazeta Wyborcza" and "Rzeczpospolita").
Cimoszewicz has also said that his cabinet intends to enforce strict
legal standards in public life, implying that the spying allegations
against his predecessor will be scrupulously investigated. He has
further said that the government will work to improve relations with
the Catholic Church, which have been recently strained over differing
views on abortion and ties to the Vatican.
Above all, Cimoszewicz has repeatedly hinted that he would consult
with opposition groups on general issues of foreign and internal
Cimoszewicz has openly acknowledged that the cabinet's main effort
will be on neutralizing the potential political damage suffered by the
leftist coalition as a result of the Oleksy "affair" in both its
domestic and foreign standings. "The government will take initiatives
that can reduce this tension," he said.
But it also apparent that his is not a cabinet ready to make major
departures in policies. The political make-up of the new cabinet is
an exact replica of the previous one. It is composed of six members
of the post-communist Democratic Left Alliance, eight "no-party"
symphatizers of the post-communist group, and eight "peasants."
Moreover, the politically sensitive posts of the interior (Zbigniew
Siemiatkowski) and justice (Leszek Kubicki) ministers remain in the
hands of post-communist activists. They will supervise the
investigation of the Oleksy case.
The all-important post of the minister charged with the supervision
of the administrative operations of the entire government hierarchy,
comprising both central and local agencies, passed into the hands of
a veteran communist functionary, Leszek Miller, who was once involved
in illegal financial dealings between the Polish and Soviet communist
parties. The case has never been fully resolved.
But the formation of the new cabinet seems to have satisfied public
expectations. At least for now. The Polish media ("Rzeczpospolita"
and "Gazeta Wyborcza") today report that the post-communist party has
recently reached the apogee of its popularity, winning more than 26
percent support in a nationwide sample. The next parliamentary
elections are scheduled for next year.
More immediately important for the new cabinet is its standing with
other countries, particularly the West. The Oleksy "affair" has
clearly aroused concern among foreign governments. Cimoszewicz has
He might have been encouraged, however, by recent assurances given
by visiting U. S. Assistant Secretary of State Richard Holbrooke that
the Oleksy case has not yet changed Washington's policy toward
Poland. But Holbrooke also made clear that the case must be openly
dealt with and fully explained.
Indeed, it is the conduct of policies rather than political
personalities that will likely determine the fate of the new cabinet,
both on domestic and foreign arenas.