Poland: In Defense of Presidential Prerogative

THE MADDENING FREquency with which Polish politics plunges into periods of crisis has perplexed even the most seasoned observers of post-communist Poland and exasperated the Poles themselves. Still, reform continues – not because of the Polish political process but in spite of it. A case in point is the recent struggle between President Lech Walesa and the coalition government over filling key cabinet posts. The political tug-of-war over which institution – president or government – should have the decisive voice in making the appointments began in October 1994 and only reached a conclusion in March. Because the defense and foreign ministries were drawn into the political fray, concern arose both at home and abroad over whether the political conflict heralded a fundamental change in Polish foreign and security policy. Given the sensitivity of the cabinet positions at stake, it seemed axiomatic that the conflict would have serious ramifications. Appearances, however, are at their most deceiving in post-communist Polish politics.