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Poland: Parliament Meets In Inaugural Session

Warsaw, 20 October 1997 (RFE/RL) - The Polish Sejm (parliament's lower chamber) met today in Warsaw in an inaugural session.

The first order of business included an address by President Aleksander Kwasniewski and election of principal parliamentary officers.

Kwasniewski appealed to the newly elected deputies to work in harmony, emphasizing that their main legislative task will concern the preparation of the country to future membership in the European Union and NATO. He also said that other urgent tasks would focus on privatization and restructuring of state heavy industries such as coal mining and oil refineries, reform of the nearly bankrupt social security system and modernization of the agricultural sector.

Maciej Plazynski of the Solidarity Electoral Action (AWS), a 39-year-old lawyer who had been fired as provincial governor of Gdansk by the leftist government for allegedly ignoring the interests of the bankrupt Gdansk shipyard, was elected speaker with support from 446 of the 449 deputies present.

Plazynski was the national top vote-getter in the elections having won more than 124,000 votes in the Gdansk district. He is said to be friend of former president Lech Walesa and also enjoys support of the Gdansk Catholic archbishop Tadeusz Goclowski.

AWS dominates the new Sejm with 201 deputies in the 460-seat chamber. The post communist Democratic Left Alliance (SLD), which had governed for the last four years, has 164 deputies and leads the opposition.

Other parties represented in the Sejm include the centrist and market-oriented Freedom Union (UW) with 60 mandates, the Peasant Party (PSL) with 27 and the extreme right-wing Movement for the Reconstruction of Poland (ROP) with 6. The remaining two seats are taken by the German ethnic minority.

Former Polish President Lech Walesa, and the last Polish president-in-exile, Ryszard Kaczorowski, were present in the Sejm as honorary guests.

The session was preceded by nearly nonstop talks between AWS and UW parties about the coalition agreement.

The agreement was eventually approved shortly before the session opened by the AWS parliamentary caucus by a vote of 124 to 5 with 48 abstentions. But no details have been released yet.

The new coalition government is to be presented to the Sejm for formal approval within the next ten days.