WARSAW, Poland -- Solidarity leader Lech Walesa urged Prime Minister Tadeusz Mazowiecki yesterday to withdraw his resignation and help calm the country's economic and political crises.
Mr. Walesa, winner of a plurality but not an outright majority in the first round of presidential elections Sunday, confirmed that he would contest the runoff Dec. 9.
He said he would ask Mr. Mazowiecki, who announced his resignation after finishing third in the voting, to stay in office until the next parliamentary elections, expected in a few months.
"The resignation in this moment was not good because the temperature in Poland at this moment is high and he should behave calmly as he promised in his campaign," Mr. Walesa told a news conference.
Mr. Walesa, whose 40 percent electoral showing was a far cry from the acclamation he had sought, told reporters in his home city of Gdansk that he was forced to compete against the second-place finisher, Stan Tyminski, a Polish-Canadian businessman.
"If Mazowiecki were in Tyminski's place . . . I would not run in the second round," Mr. Walesa said. "But today I have no choice. I cannot leave the country in the hands of somebody so untried, so inexpert . . . without any backing."
Mr. Tyminski, an unknown until two months ago, has almost no political background. He is the head of the Libertarian Party of Canada (0.25 percent of the vote in the 1988 Canadian federal elections), and he claims some local government experience in Peru, where he has a cable television business.
Nevertheless, he was able to channel the frustrations of the Polish silent majority -- small-town dwellers, workers and youth -- into a surprising 23 percent protest vote against Mr. Mazowiecki, the Solidarity prime minister whose austerity policies whittled his mandate down to only 18 percent.
Faced with hostile questioning at a press conference yesterday, Mr. Tyminski made a gaffe that may cost him dearly. Asked to define his relationship to both Solidarity and communism, he appeared to defend the 1981 imposition of martial law by Gen. Wojciech Jaruzelski.
"People don't know how much has been done for this country by General Jaruzelski," he said amid gasps from reporters.
Today many Poles do privately and grudgingly admit that General Jaruzelski might not have had much choice and that history may judge him kindly. But rejection of martial law is a Solidarity article of faith, and any ambiguity on this issue is dangerous political ground in Poland.