Once Fun And Beer, Now Serious Politics
Oct. 25, 1991
WARSAW, Poland (AP) _ It started as harmless fun - some beer and laughs for people fed up with the confusion and infighting of Polish politics.
The Polish Friends of Beer Party was founded last April at, appropriately, a beer bash.
Now the party - jokingly referred to as ''the best-tasting party in Poland'' - is among the nation's top dozen political parties and is widely expected to win seats in Sunday's parliamentary election. That's no mean feat in an election being contested by 69 parties.
Speaking to delegates at the beer party's founding congress in April, Janusz Rewinski was full of playful purpose: ''We have to decide how we are going to - and I'm not afraid to use the word - have fun.''
But before long, Rewinski, a TV celebrity who used to host a show called the ''Beer Scouts,'' had a full-fledged political party with 10,000 members.
The beer party congress was held in the same hall where the once all- powerful Communist Party dissolved itself. Most delegates had a healthy swing in their step as they sought election to the party's executive committee.
Initially, the party's platform was simple: a cleaner environment means better beer. Delegates also argued that Poles should become accustomed to drinking more beer, instead of native vodka.
By September, however, voters found that the party was hoping to become a voice for Poland's emerging business community.
Some people were so surprised by the transformation that they insisted the Communists must be using the party as a front.
Explaining the change, Rewinski said the ''clean environment, better beer'' manifesto wouldn't have gotten the party elected. A cleaner environment is something few Poles, faced with more immediate economic concerns, have time to worry about, he said.