In September 1988 a secret meeting was held which included amongst others the opposition leader Lech Wałęsa and Minister of Internal Affairs Czesław Kiszczak. They agreed on holding the so-called Round Table talks in the near future to plan out the course of action to be undertaken in the country. The Round Table talks began on February 6th 1989. They included the solidarity opposition faction and the coalition government faction. The talks were held in the Council of Ministers Office. The meetings were co-chaired by Lech Wałęsa and Czesław Kiszczak.
The Polish Communists, led by Gen. Jaruzelski, hoped to co-opt prominent opposition leaders into the ruling group without making major changes in the political power structure. In reality, the talks radically altered the shape of the Polish government and society. The events in Poland precipitated and gave momentum to the fall of the entire Communist bloc; the Yalta arrangement collapsed soon after the events in Poland.
The sessions were divided into three main workgroups:
Specific issues were handled by these workgroups. The meetings often ground to a halt. This was caused by a mutual distrust of the factions and an obvious unwillingness of the government faction to relinquish power. The most controversial issues were:
A number of (radical) opposition organisations were quite opposed to the talks. They did not believe in the good intentions of the sitting government. Despite their fears a number of important documents were signed on April 5th at the conclusion of the sessions. These documents became known as the Round Table Agreement.
As a result, real political power was vested in a newly created bicameral legislature and in a president who would be the chief executive. Solidarność became a legitimate and legal political party. Free election to 35% of the seats in Sejm and an entirely free election to the Senate was assured.
The election of 4 June 1989 brought a landslide victory to Solidarność: 99% of all the seats in the Senate and 35% of all possible seats in Sejm. Jaruzelski, whose name was the only one the Communist Party allowed on the ballot for the presidency, won by just one vote in the National Assembly. The 65-35 division was soon abolished as well, after the first truly free Sejm elections.
The Round Table sessions were of momentous importance to the future political developments in Poland. They paved the way to a free and democratic Poland as well as the final abolition of communism in Poland. Poland has now truly entered a new chapter in its history.
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