- The Washington Times - Monday, September 24, 2001

WARSAW A leftist party with roots in Poland's former communist regime won a majority in parliamentary elections yesterday, according to exit polls that also indicated the political extinction of Solidarity.
Solidarity the party that 12 years ago led Poland out of communism but has since splintered to a remnant of its former self under a string of defections, infighting and corruption scandals failed to get any seats, according to two separate exit polls.
The result, though not unexpected, was a stunning defeat for the Solidarity bloc.
Cheers went up at the headquarters of the Democratic Left Alliance as results were posted. The party also won control of the Senate with 75 of 100 seats, exit polls showed.
"It's the first time since 1989 that any political group got so many votes and a majority of seats in the parliament," said party leader Leszek Miller, who is poised to become Poland's next prime minister.
"This means a great responsibility for us," he said. "The outgoing government is leaving a lot of outstanding problems that need to be dealt with."
The Solidarity government brought Poland into NATO and made impressive economic and administrative reforms, but the rapid pace of change, as well as unemployment that has soared to 16 percent, left many Poles feeling insecure.
"We have taken political risk, and that costs," said Jerzy Buzek, the outgoing Solidarity prime minister.
A looming budget deficit further undermined the government's dim re-election chances and will present the next Cabinet with the unsavory chore of imposing an austerity plan likely to be unpopular.
If the results hold, the Democratic Left Alliance and its small ally, the Labor Union, will have won an outright majority in the 460-seat Sejm, parliament's lower house.
Exit polls by the private polling agency PBS showed the Democratic Left bloc with 44.9 percent of the vote, representing 231 seats. A separate exit poll by the private OBOP agency showed the party winning 233 seats.
Solidarity, which needed 8 percent to stay in parliament, won just 4.5 percent, PBS said.
The Democratic Left Alliance will have to contend with an array of smaller conservative parties that won seats. But the parties represent vastly different interests and were unlikely to form a strong opposition.
They include the centrist Civic Platform, formed in January from Solidarity defectors, which won 13 percent, and the Law and Justice party, formed as a crime-fighting rival to Solidarity by popular former Justice Minister Lech Kaczynski and his twin brother, Jaroslaw, with 9.75 percent, PBS said.
In addition, Self Defense, led by the radical farmer leader Andrzej Lepper, had 9 percent, and the ultraconservative League of Families 6.7 percent, according to PBS.
The exit polls indicated that 12 percent of Solidarity voters shifted to the left. Moreover, most of the more conservative parties that were under the Solidarity bloc during the last parliamentary election defected, splintering the right-wing vote.

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