Walesa sworn in Jaruzelski excluded from rites

December 23, 1990|By Kay Withers | Kay Withers,Special to The Sun

WARSAW, Poland -- Lech Walesa, the shipyard electrician who became the leader of the anti-Communist Solidarity labor union, was sworn in yesterday as president of the Polish Republic.

Mr. Walesa, 47, tense but firm, repeated the oath of office at noon before the National Assembly, or joint session of the two houses of parliament.

"In assuming the office of president of the Polish Republic, I formally swear to the Polish nation that I will be faithful to the constitution, that I will steadfastly guard the honor of the nation and the sovereignty and security of the state," he said.

Then, Mr. Walesa added quickly and unexpectedly, "So help me God."

The addition had engendered debate earlier in the week because of the separation of church and state prescribed by the constitution but observed less and less since Catholic-dominated Solidarity came to power.

Danuta Walesa stood beside her husband, a departure in a country where official wives have been kept out of sight. Their eight children watched from the gallery.

"I am from a peasant family," the new president said. "For many years I was a worker. I will never forget the road that led me to this high office."

That road included internment in 1981 and 1982, when the Communist government imposed martial law and banned Solidarity, plus nearly a decade as a non-person, tailed by secret police and reviled by press and propaganda.

Mr. Walesa presented himself yesterday as the first president elected by the whole nation. "This is the end of a period when our authorities were subject to foreign pressure or were the fruit of forced compromise," he told the assembled deputies and senators.

He called on Poles to build a new economic and political system and said present economic programs would continue.

He also promised friendship with Poland's neighbors and the building of "cooperation and the spirit of sympathy with Russia."

The former Communist leader, Gen. Wojciech Jaruzelski, was not present for any of the ceremonies, neither at the parliament or at the Belweder presidential residence, nor at the royal castle where Mr. Walesa took over formal command of the armed forces.

On Thursday, General Jaruzelski had made it clear that he had not been invited, and indeed the ceremonies appeared designed to deny legitimacy to one of the architects of the reforms that eventually made Solidarity's accession to power possible.

"It is a pity that . . . in the existing situation, the presidential box remains empty," parliamentary speaker Mikolaj Kozakiewicz chided legislators Friday, adding that he "wished General Jaruzelski a well-earned rest and fruitful years ahead."

Mr. Walesa instead received the symbols of office not from the man who had actually wielded power but from the unrecognized Polish government-in-exile in London.

The president of that government, Ryczard Kaczorowski, who was welcomed yesterday with the honors due a visiting head of state, brought with him on his special plane the insignia of office kept in London ever since the Polish government fled the Nazis in 1939.

These included the presidential seals and red and gold standard, and the original of the 1935 Constitution under which President Ignacy Moscicki was elected in 1939.

Some Poles protested. The Free Democrats Movement, a splinter group, wrote to the parliament that such a handing over of power was absurd.

But a newspaper vendor disagreed. "It has symbolic value," she said.

After handing over the paraphernalia of prewar power at a ceremony in the gold and white ballroom of the royal palace, Mr. Kaczorowski declared, to some belatedly, that his role was finished and that the London parliament would become a liquidation committee to dispose of assets.

Addressed repeatedly as "Mr. President," Mr. Kaczorowski sat just behind Mr. Walesa at the special inaugural Mass in St. John's Cathedral.

The new president plans to return to his home in Gdansk today for the Christmas break. After the holidays negotiations on the formation of the new government will continue.

Already one and possibly two potential prime ministers have withdrawn.

Mr. Walesa, who called for "acceleration" during the election campaign and harshly criticized caretaker Prime Minister Tadeusz Mazowiecki as too slow, is now suggesting retaining either the government or the parliament for a longer period than previously envisaged.

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