Polish Politics: History of Presidency in Poland

Institution of presidency in Poland was created after the WW I. Unfortunately the first Polish president was shot a week after being elected...

Presidency institution in Poland was functioning in years: 1922-39, 1947-52 and since 1989.

Institution of presidency was created in Polish legislation when Poland regained independence after WW I. Famous Marshal Józef Piłsudski was never formally a president although he was a head of a state (1919-1922) with rights equivalent to a president. The first Polish president was Gabriel Narutowicz. He was chosen by votes of Polish left wing and minorities. Unfortunately he was also the first and only president shot dead on 16 December 1922 by a right wing artist painter E. Niewiadomski. It was only a week after being elected.

Until the outbreak of World War II, the highest office was held by Stanisław Wojciechowski (1922-1926) and Ignacy Mościcki (1926-1939). During the German occupation, the institution of the President still existed in the Polish government in exile (Władyslaw Raczkiewicz).

After liberation by Soviet army the institution of presidency was incidentally confirmed with Boleslaw Bierut as a president in years 1947-1952 and consequently removed by Constitution in 1952. Bierut was a puppet of Stalin.

The restoration of the highest office was brought by implementation of the Constitution amendment in April 1989. In July 1989 he first Polish president, Wojciech Jaruzelski was elected by Seim (lower chamber of Polish Parliament) with the majority of just one voice supporting him (altogether there are 360 deputies in Polish Seim). The slogan was: "Yours President, our Prime-Minister". Wojciech Jaruzelski was unpopular since he was responsible for the implementation of the military law in December 1981.

The presidency of Jaruzelski did not last a long time. In 1990 preparations to new first free elections were announced. From six candidates registered in October 1990. Two candidates, commonly known Solidarity leader, Lech Wałęsa and completely unknown before elections, Polish businessman from Peru, Stanislaw Tymiński passed to the second round (in popular election). The shocking and sudden popularity of Tyminski can be explained by the longing for somebody outside the political party circles, somebody who could give a fresh start in the old country. The negative campaign against Tymiński before the run off election, and the growing awareness that Tyminski does not have any concrete and realistic economic and political program for presidency caused that Walesa won easily the second round (December 1990) having support of about 75% of voters.

Although Walesa's role in creating Polish democratic state is unquestionable he definitively did not contribute to political stability when elected. He was perceived as somebody who was creating the conflicts (he created so called "war on the top"). He alienated many of his friends from Solidarity and started surrounding himself with questionable people. Therefore in later elections in 1995, Aleksander Kwaśniewski - ex communistic minister of sport win easily over Lech Walesa. With his win of some people were concerned about the return of communism in Poland. Although Kwasniewski sympathies remained on the left he was acting in rather calm and non-confrontational way.
Therefore in the coming elections Kwasniewski, according to polls has a support of over 60% of people, whereas Walesa just 1 %.

Read an update about present Polish political situation HERE!

I recommend two books about Lech Walesa. The first one was written by Rebecca Stefoff and is entitled:
Lech Walesa: The Road to Democracy (Great Lives)

The second one is an autobiographical book entitled:

The Struggle and the Triumph: An Autobiography
by Lech Walesa, Arkadiusz Rybicki (Contributor), Franklin Phillip (Editor)

September, 2000 (article #6)

Copyright by Jagoda Urban-Klaehn

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