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Wednesday, 2 August, 2000, 14:56 GMT 15:56 UK
Walesa faces collaboration charge
Lech Walesa
Walesa wants to make a political comeback
By regional affairs specialist Jan Repa

A special court in Poland has been considering claims that the former president and Solidarity leader, Lech Walesa, may have collaborated in the past with the communist secret police.

Poland is scheduled to hold presidential elections this autumn - and the vetting of candidates, including the current President, Aleksander Kwasniewski, is causing much political controversy.

Poland's President Kwasniewski
President Kwasniewski 'may have a case to answer'
Allegations that Lech Walesa - the now almost-legendary founding leader of the Solidarity trade union movement and Poland's first post-communist President - may once have been a secret police collaborator have been circulating for several years.

Poland's recently-established Vetting Tribunal is charged with establishing whether candidates for high public office did anything during the communist era which might disqualify them today.

Moral ambiguities

Other candidates are also being scrutinised - including President Kwasniewski, who was a junior minister in Poland's last Communist government, in the late 1980s.

Many Polish commentators maintain that the vetting procedure is itself flawed, because it relies on questionable data and fails to take into account the compromises and moral ambiguities that were part of everyday life in communist Poland.

But the vetting issue has also drawn attention to the murky workings of Poland's present Secret Service.

Predictably, the main candidates' supporters claim that files are being exploited by political parties for their own advantage.

Access to files

And they say there appear to be no clear guidelines as to who has access to sensitive material and when.

There are suggestions that President Kwasniewski himself may have a case to answer.

Opinion polls, however, suggest that Mr Kwasniewski should win comfortably this autumn, and that Mr Walesa, out of office since 1995, will fail to make a comeback.

But there is still time for political upsets.

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See also:

18 Jun 00 | Europe
Walesa in new bid for presidency
28 May 00 | Europe
Coalition collapse in Poland
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