May 26, 1997 in Nation/World

Poles Adopt New Constitution Charter Provides For Market Economy, Personal Freedoms

Associated Press

Eight years after the fall of the Iron Curtain, Polish voters adopted a new constitution Sunday that wipes out the last remnants of communism and seeks to foster Poland’s desire for full integration into Europe.

The new charter, which replaces a 1952 communist-era constitution, commits Poland to a market economy and private ownership, guarantees personal freedoms necessary for entrance into the European Union and ensures civilian control of the military, required for Poland’s goal of NATO membership.

Exit polls showed that 57 percent of voters favored adopting the constitution, while 43 percent rejected the charter. Nearly 40 percent of Poland’s eligible 28 million voters participated in the referendum.

Official results are expected by Tuesday, but private PBS polling agency said the exit poll clearly showed the required simple majority favored the charter.

After results are certified, the president is obligated to sign the constitution.

Right-wing parties, including the political successor of the Solidarity trade union that toppled communism in 1989, called on supporters to reject the charter approved by the leftist-dominated parliament.

They criticized the constitution for not explicitly condemning the communists for human rights abuses during their rule. Eight years in the writing, the constitution provides for a clearer division of powers between the prime minister and president and specifies economic and social rights. It also ensures independence of the central bank, and puts a cap on public debt.

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