President highlights importance of Poland’s 1989 breakthrough elections

Saturday marks the 33rd anniversary of the first partially free elections in Poland on June 4, 1989. On the occasion, Polish President Andrzej Duda addressed the witnesses of the breakthrough event, thanking them for their activity in difficult times and persistence in the fight for sovereignty.

President Andrzej Duda said that the generation of the 70’s and 80’s, who participated in the democratic changes in Poland, deserves the freedom of opinion and speech.

“The fact that today we can discuss, that today we can openly exchange views and no one goes to jail for their opinions, is a great merit for you,” he said in his speech at the Belvedere after the official awarding of distinguished people.

“I want you to know that after over 30 years Poland still remembers,” Andrzej Duda said.

A breakthrough moment

On June 4, 1989 Poles were able to vote for the first competitive election since 1947. It turned into a ballot on communist rule.

The election came about as a result of the Round Table accords signed earlier that year. The opposition and the communist authorities agreed that 35 percent of the seats in the Lower House would be open to all comers and the remaining 65 percent would be elected from candidates put forward by the communist party and its satellites.

A newly created Senate would be elected totally freely with no reserved seats for the communist authorities. The Polish trade union ‘Solidarity’ contested the Senate and the 35 percent of the Lower House seats as a united force. As a result it won all of the available Lower House seats and 99 out of the 100 Senate seats.

For the communist authorities, there was the extra embarrassment of the national list failing to be approved by the electorate. Voters took great care in crossing out high profile government candidates on that list.