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Poland: Parties Seek Election Delay Due To Flood

Warsaw, 23 July 1997 (RFE/RL) -- With unprecedented floods still covering much of the country, most of Poland's political parties today demanded that a general election scheduled for September 21 be postponed. However, the ruling ex-communists insisted on keeping to the date.

The parties -- from the opposition Union for Freedom to the Peasant Party, junior partner in the government coalition -- said the president should declare a state of emergency in flood-hit areas which would automatically postpone the polls at least until November.

Advocates say a state of emergency would facilitate the repair of damage caused by the floods, the worst in centuries, which put more than 5,000 square kilometers of Poland's south and west under water and killed 55 people.

But President Aleksander Kwasniewski, linked to the principal governing party, the ex-communist Democratic Left Alliance, refused to introduce the measure. Prime Minister Wlodzimierz Cimoszewicz said the polls should take place as scheduled to signal that Poland is a stable country that respects democratic rules even in the face of serious trouble.

Meanwhile, floods threatened eastern Germany today, on the border with Poland. Near Frankfurt an der Oder, German authorities forced residents to evacuate their homes in 10 villages today as floodwaters broke through a dyke on the Oder River. In the Czech Republic, the level of the Oder is reported to be falling near Ostrava. But authorities warn it remains a flood risk.

Flooding which began early this month has claimed more than 100 lives in Poland and the Czech Republic.