- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 25, 2001

WARSAW Reformed communists from Poland's Democratic Left Alliance succeeded in ousting Solidarity from parliament but lack the majority needed to govern alone, preliminary elections results showed yesterday.
Exit polls after Sunday's vote indicated the Democratic Left had a one-seat majority in the 460-seat lower house.
But the mood turned grim as new results yesterday showed the Democratic Left's victory slipped to 219 seats, or 41 percent 12 seats short of a majority.
If the party fails to recover in the final tally, expected by tomorrow, the Democratic Left faces a difficult choice of coalition partners, or will have to settle for a minority government with the backing of leftist President Aleksander Kwasniewski.
The Democratic Left's victory won't mean any big changes in Poland's West-leaning foreign and economic policies.
Party leader Leszek Miller, 55, who is poised to become Poland's next prime minister, has pledged to stay firmly in the NATO alliance and support any military response to the terrorist attacks in the United States. He also said he will keep Poland, a country of 39 million, on course to join the European Union.
But he will need firm backing to make the hard budget cuts he envisions.
The Civic Platform, the most centrist of the parties to win seats Sunday, has ruled out a coalition but indicated it would support the left on critical matters regarding the budget and reforms necessary to join the European Union. The party finished in second place with 12 percent, or 63 seats, according to preliminary results.
The others include the radical Self-Defense Party, which campaigned on its opposition to European Union membership and was running in third with 10 percent; the ultraconservative League of Polish Families; and the Polish Peasants Party, with whom the ex-communists governed in an uneasy coalition from 1993 to 1997.
"It is hard to say if any group has an identical program with the Democratic Left," Mr. Miller told Polish state radio yesterday. He acknowledged that seeking a coalition partner could mean "difficult talks, a waste of time, perhaps some fierce disputes."
Such a prognosis could undermine Mr. Miller's promises of a stable government that could decisively revamp Poland's ailing public finances, contain the ballooning deficit and reduce unemployment that has soared to 16 percent.
"The results are not good news," said Pawel Puchalski, an analyst at Raiffeisen Bank in Warsaw. "There is a clear winner in the election but he is not clear enough."
The Democratic Left had hoped to avoid shaky alliances like those that eroded three Solidarity governments since the end of the communist era in 1989, most stunningly the last one, which failed to win a single seat in the new parliament.
Leftists haven't fared much better in coalition governments. An alliance with the Polish Peasants Party, which lives and dies on a platform to protect the inefficient agricultural sector, failed to overcome the Peasants Party objections to privatization plans, stalling reforms.
The peasants have said they would join a coalition, but the Democratic Left was showing few signs of seeking their support.

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