Minutes from a Meeting of the Presidium of the Citizens' Parliamentary Club
In June 1989, Poland held its first semi-free elections since the beginning of Communist Party rule following World War II, in which Communism was soundly defeated by Solidarity activists. Shortly after this election, the newly elected leaders of the opposition formed the Citizens' Parliamentary Club through which they debated potential government structures and the future road for Poland. One of the first topics that the new parliament had to resolve was the presidency. To counter potential conflict with the army and the Soviet Union, the common perception within parliament was that Communist official Wojciech Jaruzelski should remain as Poland's leader. As the minutes from a meeting of the Citizens' Parliamentary Club from July 15, 1989, show, Solidarity leaders had varying views regarding the upcoming election of Jaruzelski for president. At the time, parliament, not the people, elected the president of Poland; Jaruzelski won by one vote, although many Solidarity activists abstained from voting. The process of creating a new political system in a time of uncertainty was complicated, often tense, and full of compromises by all sides, as these notes demonstrate.
Minutes from a Meeting of the Presidium of the Citizens’ Parliamentary Club
15 July 1989
Present: B. Geremek, O. Krzyzanowska, Z. Kuratowska, J. Amroziak, A. Celinski, K.
Kozlowski, J. Rokita , A. Stelmachowski, J. Slisz, A. Balazs, E. Wende, J. Kuron, G.
1. A report by A. Stelmachowski on his visit with Gen. Jaruzelski
2. The Club’s meeting of 10 July
3. Preparations for a meeting with Gen. Jaruzelski
4. A Statute of the National Assembly and election of a president
5. Structure and composition of Commissions
6. Miscellaneous matters.
A. Stelmachowski: On Thursday, Gen. Jaruzelski paid me a visit, and later on,
Minister Czyrek. The talk with Jaruzelski lasted 1 hour and 45 minutes. We raised the
- The question of presidency: the thing is that despite his personal unwillingness,
he feels obliged to run for it. He is referring to three elements:
- A clear stand by the body of generals, the MON and the Council for National
- Some outside reactions are unmistakable: statements at the [Warsaw Pact]
Political Committee at Bucharest, and some wordings by President Bush.
- The position of the majority of colleagues at the Plenum. Due to these pressures
he has been forced to revise his position. An obstacle—Solidarity is explicitly in favor of
Kiszczak.It would be good if support for Kiszczak could be revised. To meet Solidarity
half-way—he is proposing a different solution than a hearing in a Sejm debate—he will
appear in different Clubs with Kiszczak. Since it is rather unusual, he will ask for the
formula that he comes at the invitation of the OKP. And also that it should be without the
presence of journalists.
- In Bucharest, Gorbachev asked Jaruzelski if it would not be proper for Walesa to
come to Moscow. If we would oppose it, he would not pursue it further
- He showed anxiety over the agricultural situation. He asked if the situation is so
dire. Would a transition to the market economy improve this situation? The meeting with
Czyrek headed in a similar direction. He said that the question of the presidency is
becoming more and more urgent, that one must keep in mind the possibility of
provocations. In this context he informed me about the death of Rev. Zych. He asked
about [...words missing] of the government. A great coalition is desirable. We exchanged
views [... words missing] conclusions. Walesa is saying in public statements that he
would like to go to Moscow. Gorbachev said in Paris [...words missing] arrival is fine,
but he does not want to see him come under a formula of union invitation— could
Walesa come as a social leader, a Noble Prize laureate. It would be a mixed invitation by
the Parliament and the Peace Council.
A. Wielowieyski: Has Jacek Kuron given a report about his talk with Prof.
Orzechowski? The two of us [Wielowieyski and Kuron] gave him a formal invitation for
Jaruzelski. He argued they had agreed that voting in other Clubs is going to be open. ZSL
will be voting for Jaruzelski, and so will SD. However, they can obtain only a slight
majority, thus there is some anxiety.
J. Slisz: According to my information, 9 SL deputies will be voting for neither
A. Stelmachowski: Kozakiewicz is predicting that 25 SD deputies will be voting
Wende: Can we afford not to take a position?
Ziolkowski: Orzechowski said he would like to meet on state matters.
J.M. Rokita: I spoke with Janowski—he cannot imagine that his party might be
against it. He has 6 “rebels.”
B. Geremek: This has been a brief overview of the situation, tomorrow is the Club
meeting at 10 a.m. What is the agenda?
A. Wielowieyski: The Commission matters—at least information on the work of
the Extraordinary Commission. Item 2, the National Assembly:
1. Statute of the National Assembly.
2. Matters relating to the election of a president.
3. A meeting with the General [Jaruzelski] at 3 p.m.
We have not received a response as to whether Walesa will be coming; the
General asked for a meeting with him half an hour earlier.
How do we imagine that meeting will take place? For how long is he coming?
J. Kuron: As long as necessary, he is at our disposal. At the meeting there are
going to be only parliamentary deputies and a recording clerk.
E. Wende: If absence of the press is required by the guest, we are not going to
vote on this in the Club.
Z. Kuratowska: We have the right to present our position: the guest does not wish
to have the press, we have invited him.
B. Geremek: If there are protests from the floor about the press, we will vote on it.
E. Wende: There may be a surprise given that the deputies will demand openness
and the press.
J. Slisz: We have invited him, he just asked to have it without the press, as is the
case in other Clubs, we have agreed to it.
B. Geremek: We should ask if the Club wishes to meet with the General. […]
B. Geremek: We are asking whether to invite Gen. Jaruzelski, assuming that a
press conference will follow the meeting, but no journalists at the meeting. Will questions
be asked from the floor, or handed over on a slip of paper and signed?
K. Kozlowski: A few questions should be prepared at the beginning.
B. Geremek: A few words of welcome should be in order. Next we expect
answers from the candidate to several basic questions. We give him a chance with the
first question: Stalinism, with the second one—martial law—we deprive him of such a
chance. The third question relates to an agenda of democratic reforms. I would set such
agenda pragmatically: 1. access to TV, 2. territorial self-government, 3. the courts, 4. on
his model of the state running in the transition period. The opposition is demanding an
Extraordinary Commission, which would have an insight into the workings of the
A. Wielowieyski: Confirmation of democratic elections after four years!
E. Wende: Should the questions from the floor not be given on a slip of paper to
Then, it would be possible to look at them and request withdrawal. There might
be a question—how many AK [Armia Krajowa- Polish “Home Army” during World War
II] members has he murdered?
J. Slisz: Questions should be asked from the floor.
J. Kuron: Questions from the floor are better. Even that question about AK
members can be put, provided that the form of the question is proper. This should be said
G. Janowski: What do we want to achieve by a question on the Economic
Council—he is open for anything anyway.
B. Geremek: In our conversations, the words were used that this is a takeover of
the government. The thing is that he is a candidate who should be engaged.
G. Janowski: Questions from the floor should be with only a brief explanation,
and not some sort of historical-political reports.
A. Stelmachowski: This is the reason why I think questions should be put on
paper, otherwise they will talk and talk.
G. Janowski: He has time for us, it is not an every-day opportunity, let them talk.
A. Wielowieyski: That is nonsense, it is Jaruzelski who is to talk.
J.M. Rokita: If the questions are to be on paper, then the burden of selection and
ordering will rest with the Presidium.
B. Geremek: Then there will be resentment, as each type of selection will stir up
J. Slisz: In the ZSL there were direct questions, then selection is automatic.
J.M. Rokita: When he gets questions from the floor, it gives him an opportunity to
better present himself to the people asking questions.
G. Janowski: Do you want to facilitate him?
J.M. Rokita: Yes, I do this time!
J. Ziolkowski: On the agenda there are no questions about the nomenklatura. Such
questions should necessarily be raised. An interaction is important—face to face. The
culture of formulating questions is very important. In this circle there is great sensitivity
for admonition. To depend on their responsibility!
A voice from the floor: That is too much!
B. Geremek: Should we limit [time] to 1 minute. It is enough—1 to 2 minutes.
J. Ziolkowski: We may appeal to ask factual questions.
O. Krzyzanowska: There will be a question on how he sees the role of the Party.
E. Wende: In what form will Kiszczak be there?
J. Kuron: Orzechowski said that there would be only one candidate—Jaruzelski.
Thus, can we ask him questions?
— [unidentified speaker:] Only if he would be a candidate.
J. Kuron: It’s not obvious that such a meeting is a man-to-man fight. […] Here it
is not so, as 260 are besetting a single one. We absolutely need to talk about culture.
B. Geremek: There are things about which the Presidium cannot talk. I think in
the first part of the meeting there will be a discussion and this problem will emerge. It has
been decided that questions will be asked directly. We are not saying how long the
meeting is going to last, we do not set any time limit, unless the meeting starts dragging
The Statute of the National Assembly and Election of the President
B. Geremek: We assume that we have to have a discussion:
- on the form of voting;
- on the statute of the National Assembly.
The National Assembly will most likely meet on Wednesday.
A. Stelmachowski: Kozakiewicz says it will certainly be on Wednesday, but it
will probably be necessary to call the National Assembly on Tuesday afternoon to discuss
the statute. The question is whether the voting should be open or secret. The General was
inclined to recognize a secret vote, but Czyrek vehemently opposed it.
B. Geremek: Discussion on the statute—how awful. Urban will exploit it, as there
is a clear tendency toward deprecating parliamentary institutions. A statute of the
National Assembly is going to be proposed by the Coalition, we will introduce
amendments. Only a vote for or against. Then comes voting, either they accept or reject
J.M. Rokita: But there is going to be a polemic from the Coalition’s side.
B. Geremek: The Speaker of the Sejm doesn’t have the right to refuse to give the
floor to someone. In our Club we will submit for a vote the proposed statute.
A. Celinski: The Extraordinary Commission hasn’t come to an understanding, it
decided there would be a discussion on this problem; a debate or so, open—not open. It’s
about to meet tomorrow and will present positions to the Clubs.
A. Stelmachowski: We give up on the debate.
O. Krzyzanowska: That question was to be taken up at the Seniors’ Convent on
Z. Kuratowska: Let’s have a discussion on the statute on Tuesday morning.
A. Stelmachowski: Or tomorrow, time permitting.
B. Geremek: Let’s vote on it tomorrow:
-secret or open
-debate or no debate.
K. Kozlowski: There must be a discussion in the Club on where a secret vote
leads us, and where the open one does.
J. Kuron: Nobody will agree to a debate. If there is a debate, we will denigrate
him [the President]. Are we anxious to have the President denigrated?
E. Wende: The question of behaving on the floor. Are we supposed to save
K. Kozlowski: I would go even further, for an open vote, without debate, without
leaving and without demonstration— we are serious people.
A. Wielowieyski: Should I present the numbers? They may be short 15 to 21
votes—they are “in a flap,” they are stretched to the limit. Everyone who doesn’t do
anything is giving Jaruzelski half a vote.
J. Kuron: We have to be aware of what the President’s case means—the peasants
won’t get markets [for their goods], physicians won’t get a raise, the government stays
on, we are entering into a terrible mess. Consequences of demonstrating our morality are
falling upon the society.
B. Geremek: Not electing a PUWP member would settle the question of
physicians. The election can be repeated. General Jaruzelski wants to be elected in the
first round and probably this will happen. If it doesn’t happen, it’s not a drama. All will
reflect [on the situation], and it will be repeated.
A. Balazs: The Club has decided it will not vote for Gen Jaruzelski. If Jaruzelski
convinces us at that meeting, will we be voting for him?
J. Kuron: Everybody votes as he likes, consistent with the will of the electorate.
That’s what has been decided.
O. Krzyzanowska: The behavior of the SD and ZSL is new. We thought that they
would elect him. But right now our position begins to be decisive.
J.M. Rokita: There may be a statutory crisis if there is only one candidate, as the
statute says that the candidate who gets the least [number of votes]—drops out. There has
to be either a recess in the debates, or new candidates need to be submitted.
J. Kuron: That discussion will start in the National Assembly.
J. Slisz: He won’t pass the first time, he won’t pass the second time. One needs to
be prepared for a new situation.
E. Wende: Can we change that provision?
B. Geremek: First we need to introduce statutory changes to avoid changing them
in the process.
G. Janowski: We have to submit our own candidate.
J. Kuron: Then we would enter into a war with them.
G. Janowski: People have placed great confidence in us. At pre-election meetings
they were telling me “a spanking from a parent’s hand isn’t painful.” We are handing
everything over to bureaucrats’ hands. We say: we are not ready. Why not?—there is
Geremek, Trzeciakowski ... Let’s keep in mind that in the third voting we will have to
submit our candidate.
J. Kuron: I argued in the Club in favor of taking over the government. A set-up in
which [we] have the presidency but not the government would be fatal. It would mean
taking responsibility for their government. For me a prerequisite of a functioning
government, which sooner or later we will get, is their having the presidency. Our
president is not going to have such prerogatives, he will be a figurehead. Besides, it’s a
total, confrontational change.
A. Celinski: We need to close this discussion. This is not the place for it.
A. Wielowieyski: We are not going to say anything more during this discussion.
J. Slisz: And what if a candidate drops out in the third voting?
A. Wielowieyski: Then the coalition will put forward someone new, I don’t
imagine that someone from our side would agree to run.
J. M. Rokita: We may talk with members at the Club on what to do in case of
such a crisis.
E. Wende: The presidential crisis may be much more serious than was the case
with the national electoral list. We have to be aware of it. In my heart I am with Mr.
Gabriel’s voters, but we have to make decisions thinking occasionally for them.
G. Janowski: People think better than we do.
A. Wielowieyski: We have decided that we have to inform Club members rather
clearly of what may happen and how they should behave.
B. Geremek: Lech Walesa is pondering if he should meet with Jaruzelski. He
wants to come for the National Assembly, but in what role? He should be in Warsaw, but
probably not in the Sejm.
A. Stelmachowski: He may play his role tomorrow, but not on Wednesday.
B. Geremek: The Sejm session will probably take place on the 20th . The question
of retiring the government— will there be a debate on this? Bugaj has submitted a motion
for a report—will there be a discussion then?
O. Krzyzanowska: If the government is resigning there is no reason for a debate.
There will be a discussion at the Senior Convent if that decision is subjected to a vote.
B. Geremek: When a new prime minister presents his cabinet there will be an
occasion to evaluate the resigning government. In other words, we are against the report
and against the debate.
The Structure and Composition of the [Sejm] Commissions.
J. Ambroziak: He is reporting on their proposals, which are at variance with ours.
1. Creation of a Commission on Trade and Services.
2. Taking forestry away from the Environmental Protection [Commission] and
placing it in the Commission for Agriculture.
3. Economic policy, including budget and finance.
4. Combining social policy, health and physical culture.
5. Creating a seperate Commission for Economic Cooperation with Abroad (we
wanted to have it in the industry).
They didn’t want minorities—they may submit it for a general debate.
A. Wielowieyski: What has been gained is progress. We need to fight for the
separation of health and social policy, give up on minorities (as it will become anyway a
question of German minorities—the Silesians). Housing construction has been omitted, it
should be added to the Commission on Industry.
B. Geremek: There is no reason to return back to that discussion, we will defend
[our position] at the plenary session. On matters of divergences there will be brief
statements of our deputies. […]
[Source: Archives of the Bureau of Senate Information and Documentation. Translated
by Jan Chowaniec for CWIHP.]
Citizens' Parliamentary Club, "Minutes from a Meeting of the Presidium of the Citizens' Parliamentary Club," 15 July 1989, trans. Jan Chowaniec, Archives of the Bureau of Senate Information and Documentation, Cold War International History Project, Documents and Papers, CWIHP (accessed May 14, 2008).