Poland’s president-elect resigned from the reformed Communist party Saturday, a move designed to reach out to supporters of defeated President Lech Walesa and to give himself more freedom to govern.
“I hope you will understand I am not breaking ties with you, but the decision is necessary if I am to treat all my political and social partners on equal terms,” Aleksander Kwasniewski said in a surprise announcement at a convention of the party’s regional leaders.
Kwasniewski has led the SocialDemocracy of Poland party since its 1990 creation by members of the dissolved Communist Polish United Workers’ Party, which was ousted from power in 1989.
The SdRP backed Kwasniewski’s presidential campaign.
His unexpected decision was seen as an attempt to reach out to Walesa’s supporters.
It also freed Kwasniewski from party dictates in policy-making.
Kwasniewski defeated Walesa by 3.4 percent, or about 650,000 votes, in the Nov. 19 presidential election runoff.
Both candidates received more than 9 million votes apiece.
Kwasniewski told his former party he will step up the democratic reforms begun in 1989.
“I want my five-year term to be the time when reforms get a new impulse, a new quality,” Kwasniewski said.
Kwasniewski joined the Communist party in 1977 and was youth and sports minister in Communist governments in 1984-89.
“My heart remains on the left side,” Kwasniewski said to faint applause as he gave his SdRP membership card to Prime Minister Jozef Oleksy, another prominent SdRP member. Oleksy said he may seek the party leadership.
Meanwhile Saturday, Walesa vetoed an income tax change supported by the ex-Communists, in one of his last official acts before turning the country over to Kwasniewski on Dec. 22.
The income tax bill would have lowered the bottom tax rate from 21 percent to 19 percent. Walesa argued the change was of little help to the poor and imposed an extra burden on working people.