The 1990 Presidential elections
were held in Poland
Poland , officially the Republic of Poland , is a country in Central Europe bordered by Germany to the west; the Czech Republic and Slovakia to the south; Ukraine, Belarus and Lithuania to the east; and the Baltic Sea and Kaliningrad Oblast, a Russian exclave, to the north...
on Sunday, November 25 (first round), and Sunday, December 9 (second round). These were the first direct presidential elections in the history of Poland. Before World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...
, presidents were elected by the Sejm
The Sejm is the lower house of the Polish parliament. The Sejm is made up of 460 deputies, or Poseł in Polish . It is elected by universal ballot and is presided over by a speaker called the Marshal of the Sejm ....
, but the Sejm was abolished in 1952. The leader of the Solidarity movement, Lech Wałęsa
Lech Wałęsa is a Polish politician, trade-union organizer, and human-rights activist. A charismatic leader, he co-founded Solidarity , the Soviet bloc's first independent trade union, won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1983, and served as President of Poland between 1990 and 95.Wałęsa was an electrician...
, won the first round. However, he did not earn over 50 percent of the vote, which led to a runoff election. Wałęsa faced Canadian businessman (of Polish origin) Stanisław Tymiński in the second round, defeating him easily.
Wałęsa was an electrician and union leader with the image of an emotional, shirtsleeves populist. Lawyer and former Solidarity legal advisor Mazowiecki appeared as a more respectable and intellectual leader but also as more of a compromiser. The first non-communist prime minister, Tadeusz Mazowiecki
Tadeusz Mazowiecki is a Polish author, journalist, philanthropist and Christian-democratic politician, formerly one of the leaders of the Solidarity movement, and the first non-communist prime minister in Central and Eastern Europe after World War II.-Biography:Mazowiecki comes from a Polish...
, was very popular and widely considered a front-runner. Despite Tymiński's defeat he had not only humiliated Mazowiecki (one of the best-known and most-respected figures in Polish politics), but also forced Wałęsa (who at that time was a national hero) to endure a second ballot.
The reasons for Tymiński's unexpected success remain unclear. His vague promise to create wealth for everyone quickly, supported by his image as a patriotic Pole who had succeeded abroad, was well-received at a time of radical political change and a worsening economic situation. There was increasing disappointment with the trench warfare that had broken out within the former anti-communist opposition so a mysterious, honest and patriotic stranger "straight out of nowhere" had considerable appeal.
Another factor was that Tymiński's use of political-marketing methods unknown in Poland at the time. A key element of his campaign was an omnipresent black briefcase, allegedly containing "secret documents" which would destroy his rivals' careers when the time was right. Although the elections passed without the briefcase being opened, its presence attracted constant attention. Tymiński's adversaries adopted a similar strategy; the daily Gazeta Wyborcza
(which supported Mazowiecki) reported that Tymiński had had contact with the secret police, a story that was not withdrawn until after the elections. After the election Tymiński tried to establish a new political party, but quickly disappeared from the political scene in Poland.
60.6 percent of citizens cast their votes during the first round, with 98.5 percent of those votes valid. 53.4 percent of citizens cast their vote during the second round, with 97.7 percent of those votes valid.
Since no candidate achieved an absolute majority in the first election, a runoff election
The two-round system is a voting system used to elect a single winner where the voter casts a single vote for their chosen candidate...
was required; it was held on December 9, 1989. In the second round, Tymiński lost to Wałęsa with 25.75 percent of the total vote.