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Lech Wałęsa (b. 1943) Polish trade unionist and statesman, President 1990–5.



central Europe

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An independent union formed in Poland in 1980 under the leadership of Lech Walesa, Solidarity tapped into the public's disaffection with communist power. Following mass strikes, the communist regime was forced into unprecedented concessions to society. Although after martial law in 1981, the union was banned, its legacy devastated communism in Poland. It was allowed to re‐form in 1986, and was a partner in the Round Table talks which led to the orderly withdrawal of one‐party rule beginning in 1988. Lech Walesa was elected president of Poland in 1990, and although party politics saw a fracturing of the Solidarity organization, the Solidarity Electoral Action coalition, formed in 1996, emerged as the largest party grouping in the 1997 election.

Stephen Whitefield


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