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June - August
Solidarity victorious
Poland's first free elections delivered a landslide victory for Solidarity in both houses of parliament. Solidarity gained 99 of 100 seats in the senate and a majority in the lower house (sejm), taking 162 out of 460 seats. Although many Communist Party candidates ran unopposed, they were nevertheless defeated because the voting system allowed people cross out their names on ballot papers.

Solidarity leaders were stunned. In the run-up to the vote, Walesa had said: "None of us want these elections. They're the terrible terrible price we have to pay to get our union back." Leaders were equally surprised that their victory was upheld on the same day as they watched tanks roll into Tiananmen Square, China.

At the first post-election meeting, Solidarity changed its name to the Citizens' Parliamentary Club, or OKP. Lech Walesa himself insisted the party name reflect Poland's moves towards democracy and independence.

But behind closed doors, Solidarity was worried that too much change too fast would unsettle their progress. The party backed General Jaruzelski for president. He won by just one vote.

Negotiations over the balance of a coalition government ran through the summer. Deadlocked, Mieczyslaw Rakowski, the new Polish prime minister, telephoned Soviet president Mikhail Gorbachev for advice. In a 40-minute conversation the Russian president tells Rakowski to give up power and join the coalition.

On 24 August, what had seemed the impossible happened. The lower house confirmed Solidarity leader Tadeusz Mazowiecki as prime minister. He was the first non-Communist prime minister in Eastern Europe for nearly 40 years.

Lech Walesa
General Jaruzelski