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Poland: Talks Signal Emergence Of A New Government

Prague, 9 October 1997 (RFE/RL) - Almost three weeks since parliamentary elections dramatically changed Poland's political scene by depriving left-wing groups of their dominance, signs of the emergence of a new government are appearing.

The top vote-getter, the right-wing Solidarity Election Action (AWS), has conducted a series of negotiating sessions with the centrist Freedom Union (UW), the populist Peasant Party (PSL) and the nationalistic Movement for the Reconstruction of Poland (ROP). From these have emerged gradually a political framework for the unfolding government coalition. Such a coalition is needed because none of these parties won the majority of seats in the parliament.

The talks have resulted in an agreement that the future Polish government will be formed by a center-right coalition of only two parties, the AWS and the UW. They will command a majority of 261 out of 460 parliamentary seats.

The parties have also agreed that if a minister comes from one party then a deputy minister should come from another, to avoid monopolizing certain areas.

The AWS will provide the prime minister while the UW will take the post of the single deputy prime minister.

The AWS has been slow in naming its candidate for the top job after the party top leader, Marian Krzaklewski, declined -- apparently preferring to stay as chairman of the Solidarity labor union and head of the AWS parliamentary club. Krzaklewski has recently announced plans to create a political party, to be tentatively known as the AWS Social Movement, and intimated that he would lead that party as well.

The Polish media have mentioned names of two intellectuals, Jerzy Buzek and Andrzej Wiszniewski, as possible AWS candidates for prime ministers. Neither belongs to Poland's political establishment.

The Polish television said yesterday in a nationwide broadcast that the post of deputy prime minister will go to the UW's top leader Leszek Balcerowicz. The television further said that Balcerowicz is also to control the Treasury Ministry.

Moreover, the broadcast said that ministries of foreign affairs, justice and labor will go to the UW while those of finance, economy, interior and agriculture are to be taken by the AWS.

If such a deal is indeed reached, it would represent a significant compromise between the two parties which, although both rooted in the original Solidarity movement, have in recent years developed quite different programs and preferences.

The AWS, an umbrella group of more than 30 small right-wing parties led by the Solidarity labor union, has advocated traditional patriotic and Catholic family values -- it has strongly opposed liberalization of abortions -- and has been cautious about market-oriented economic changes in fear of their social consequences.

The UW is much more secular. Many of its activists have supported liberal abortion legislation. It cooperated with the left-wing government in preparing the new constitution, opposed by the AWS. The UW's leaders were at the forefront of initial market reforms -- Balcerowicz is recognized as the architect of the country's big bang strategy of economic change -- and insist on quick privatization and free market rules.

The new government could therefore signal a division of responsibilities in which the key economic sectors: treasure, which oversees privatization and acts as owner of state assets, finance and economy are split between the two parties.

Similarly, the two sides will divide control over the key interior ministry, which controls a broad spectrum of local government, and the foreign affairs portfolio, crucial in guiding Poland's effort to enter the European Union and NATO.

The current left-wing government is to resign on October 17.

If the AWS and UW come to terms and everything goes well, the new coalition will present its prime minister to President Aleksander Kwasniewski immediately after that, and the new government could be confirmed at the new parliament's first sitting on October 20.

The government could be sworn by the president soon afterwards.