Page last updated at 10:31 GMT, Wednesday, 25 March 2009

4 June: Solidarity wins


Success in Poland's first post-war election that allowed seats to be freely contested propelled Solidarity into government


Poland's general election in June was a breakthrough for the Solidarity union movement that had spent much of the 1980s fighting for greater political freedom under martial law.

The vote came after four months of intense discussions between Solidarity and the communist authorities. On 4 June, all seats in a newly created Senate were freely contested as were a third of the seats in the lower house, the Sejm.

What was intended by the authorities as a calculated concession to allow Solidarity a limited platform, with the Communist Party retaining overall control, turned into a rout. Solidarity won 99 out of 100 seats in the Senate and every seat available to it in the Sejm.

The result created a political crisis. Solidarity and Communist Party reformers agreed a compromise to reduce the risk of Soviet intervention - Communist Party boss, Wojciech Jaruzelski became president with Tadeusz Mazowiecki, a Catholic intellectual and long-time Solidarity adviser, as prime minister.

It was a dramatic outcome. The largest Soviet "satellite" in Eastern Europe now had a non-communist head of government.

In December the following year, Solidarity leader Lech Walesa became Poland's first democratically elected president.

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