Alexander Kwasniewski

Alexander Kwasniewski

Alexander Kwasniewski was born in Bialogard, Poland, on 15th November, 1954. Kwasniewski studied economics at Gdansk University (1973-77). While at university Kwasniewski became involved in politics and in 1976 became chairman of the University Council of the Socialist Union of Polish Students (SZSP).

After leaving university Kwasniewski worked as a journalist and was editor of the student weekly, ITD (1981-84) and Sztandar Mlodych (1984-85). He was also the co-founder of the computer science periodical, Bajtek in 1985.

A member of the Polish United Workers' Party (PUWP), Kwasniewski entered the government of General Wojciech Jaruzelski and served as Minister of Youth Affairs (1985-87) and Chairman of the Committee for Youth and Physical Culture (1987-90).

Reformers in Poland were helped by the fact that Mikhail Gorbachev had gained power in the Soviet Union. In 1986 Gorbachev made it clear he would no longer interfere in the domestic policies of other countries in Eastern Europe. Wojciech Jaruzelski was now forced to negotiate with Lech Walesa and the trade union movement. This resulted in parliamentary elections and a noncommunist government and in 1989 Solidarnosc became a legal organization.

In January 1990 Kwasniewski helped to found the Social Democratic Party and became its first chairman. The following year played an important role in forming the Democratic Left Alliance.

In December 1990 Lech Walesa was elected President of the Republic of Poland. He was not a success and his critics claimed he developed an authoritarian style in running the country. His behaviour was erratic and he was criticized for his close links with the military and security services.

In November 1995 presidential election Kwasniewski defeated Walesa (51.7 per cent against 48.3 per cent). Over the next few years he worked hard to get Poland admitted to North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). In attended summit meetings in Madrid and Washington and on 26th February, 1999, signed the documents that ratified Poland membership of NATO. In 2000 Kwasniewski was re-elected as president with 53.9 per cent of the vote.