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Evaluating International Influences on Democratic Development: Poland 1980-1989
Working Paper

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CDDRL Working Papers

July 2008

The case of Poland in the 1980s is an example of a successful democratic breakthrough with the endpoint defined, for the purposes of this paper, as the election of Tadeusz Mazowiecki­a Catholic intellectual, longtime member of the political opposition, and advisor to the Solidarno trade union movement­to the office of prime minister on August 24, 1989. Solidarno's victory in 1989 was not complete: elections had not been free and, in a power sharing agreement, half of Mazowiecki's cabinet was filled by members from the previous Communist government: the Polish United Worker's Party (PZPR) and their satellite parties, the Democratic Party (SD) and United Peasants' Party (ZSL). Former party leader General Wojeciech Jaruzelski also retained power in the newly created position of president. Nonetheless, Mazowiecki's election was the first time a non-communist had led a government in Eastern Europe since World War II, and was substantively and symbolically an exit from Poland's Communist authoritarian period. Within a few months the PZPR dissolved and the government rewrote the constitution. After Mazowiecki's election, the key issues for Poland became democratic consolidation and economic restructuring.

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