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Sunday, 18 June, 2000, 16:51 GMT 17:51 UK
Walesa in new bid for presidency
Lech Walesa
Walesa: Not as popular as a decade ago
The former leader of Poland's Solidarity trade union movement, Lech Walesa, has been nominated as a candidate for presidential elections due in October.

He will run against the current president, Aleksander Kwasniewski, the former communist who unseated Mr Walesa at the last elections five years ago.

Opinion polls give 57-year old Mr Walesa - who served as Poland's first post-Communist president - about 4% support, while Mr Kwasniewski scores around 70%.

Since losing the presidency, Mr Walesa has not been active in politics, retiring to Gdansk, where he led the shipyard union uprising which sparked the collapse of communism in Poland.

Forthright views

He is now a member of the Christian Democracy of the Third Republic, a vehicle for his conservative, strongly Catholic views.

The slogan of Mr Walesa's campaign is "Black is black, white is white".

"We cannot make room for grey which easily dilutes all strategies and priorities," he says in his electoral programme.

He wants

  • the introduction of a national programme to combat poverty,
  • universal teaching of English in schools
  • reform of the judiciary
  • help for the farmers.

A fight against corruption and tax reform are other platforms in his programme.

Diplomatic success

President Kwasniewski has successfully left his communist past behind him to become Poland's most popular politician.

He has been given credit for piloting Poland into Nato and promoting the country's application for European Union membership.

Mr Walesa, by contrast, often embarrassed the political establishment with his bluntness and lack of sophistication during his presidency.

Other candidates planning to run in October include another veteran anti-communist activist, Marian Krzaklewski, of the ruling Solidarity Electoral Action (AWS) party, and independent liberal Andrzej Olechowski, a former foreign minister.

Mr Olechowski is the nearest, albeit distant, challenger to Mr Kwasniewski, with about 10% in the opinion polls.

Another likely candidate is Andrzej Lepper, a radical farmer's leader who opposes the liberalisation of the country's agriculture sector and the opening of markets which would result from Poland's membership of the EU.

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See also:

28 May 00 | Europe
Coalition collapse in Poland
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