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Primate Brings Politicians to ‘Tea’ to Map Democratic Evolution

September 18, 1990

WARSAW, Poland (AP) _ Poland’s feuding leaders, led by Solidarity chairman Lech Walesa and Prime Minister Tadeusz Mazowiecki, agreed on the need for early, free elections but little else in meetings Tuesday, participants said.

The six hours of discussions, called by the powerful Roman Catholic primate, brought together more prominent officials than any meeting since the spring 1989 negotiations that led to the downfall of the Communist regime.

Participants had cautioned before starting that no decisions would be made behind closed doors, and indicated afterward they were divided on key issues concerning the nation’s next steps toward democracy.

They said the session served as preparation for Thursday’s potentially fiery debate in Parliament on the schedule for post-Communist Poland’s first fully democratic presidential and parliamentary elections.

″There couldn’t have been any decisions because it was just a conversation,′ ′ said Walesa - the only declared presidential candidate - as he left Primate Jozef Glemp’s residence.

Mazowiecki said there had been a ″broad exchange ... about all the problems Poland faces.″ But asked if there was a convergence of views, he said: ″I don’t think so.″

Minister Aleksander Hall, responsible for contacts among political parties, said two concepts emerged: one to hold a presidential election first and the other to hold balloting for the presidency and parliament at the same time.

″All are of the opinion that those events should take place in the next few months,″ he said.

President Wojciech Jaruzelski, the former Communist Party leader who has indicated he will leave office early, said the ″constructive″ exchange ″brings us closer to decisions.″

″The primate’s intention is to create the most civilized conditions for further political evolution in Poland,″ deputy government spokesman Edward Krzemien told Polish radio. ″The point is that the coming elections shouldn’t divide and tear Poland apart but provide transition to democracy.″

The once-united Solidarity movement has split into two camps. One, Center Alliance, backs Walesa and is identified with workers and the Solidarity union headquartered in Gdansk. The other, known by the acronym ROAD, includes many intellectuals and supports Mazowiecki and the government in Warsaw.

Leaders of both groups, evolving as political parties after four decades of one-party Communist leadership, were among the 25 people invited. Also included were other Parliamentary leaders.

The session followed Walesa’s announcement Monday that he will run for president in the elections expected as early as this fall and no later than spring.

There has been no word on a bid by Mazowiecki. Walesa parted ways with his former adviser over the pace of reforms, saying the government has lost sight of the issues and that too many Communists remain in positions of power.

A public opinion poll conducted Sept. 3-4 and published Tuesday showed Mazowiecki was supported for president by 48 percent of those surveyed, compared with 37 percent for Walesa. The rest had no opinion.

However, Walesa’s prominence, political instincts and authority are incalculable and he has said he is confident of victory. He received the loudest cheers from the crowd watching the arrivals at the primate’s residence. Jaruzelski was greeted by derisive whistles.

The poll also showed a drop in confidence in the government from 82 percent in January to 61 percent. About half of those questioned had never heard of either the Center Alliance or ROAD.

The church’s position in the election will be critical in overwhelmingly Catholic Poland.

The Polish media first dubbed the session a ″small round-table,″ reminiscent of the unprecedented spring 1989 meetings of the former Communist authorities and the Solidarity-led opposition. The talks opened the way for reform in Poland and across Eastern Europe.

But Walesa and others objected and the session became known as ″tea at the primate’s.″

″Free elections will become our new round-table, not any agreement behind the back of society,″ Walesa said.

Jaruzelski, the former Communist Party leader who jailed Walesa and Mazowiecki during martial law, imposed in 1981, has said he is willing to resign early from his six-year term.

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