WARSAW -- In a dramatic reversal of 45 years of Communist rule in Poland, President Wojciech Jaruzelski is expected today to offer the post of prime minister to newspaper editor Tadeusz Mazowiecki, a longtime opposition activist and a key Solidarity adviser.
Mazowiecki, 62, known as a soft-spoken conciliator among his Solidarity colleagues, met for two hours with Jaruzelski on Friday and afterward told reporters that he expected a formal offer of the post from the president.
There was no certainty about when the announcement might come, but a presidential television message is scheduled for 6 p.m. today, following a meeting of the Communist Party's Central Committee. Political observers assume that Jaruzelski will discuss his move with the party's leadership before making it public.
"We had long talks with the president, which were very fundamental, concerning all important issues," Mazowiecki said. "I think there will be solutions very soon."
Mazowiecki (pronounced mah-zoe-vee-ET-skee) spoke in his customarily calm manner with a crowd of journalists trailing him through the parliament building as he arrived for a meeting with Solidarity's leadership. He was asked when he expected to name a government.
"I wish I knew that myself," said the editor of the Weekly Solidarity newspaper. "There is great social impatience, but this is to be a government formed on a completely new principle, and I need some time."
The new principle is the nearest approach to a parliamentary democracy in Eastern Europe since the region was politically colonized by Soviet dictator Josef Stalin at the end of World War II.
The acceptance by Jaruzelski of Solidarity leader Lech Walesa's plan for a government led by Solidarity appears to spell the end of another principle dearly held by Communists: the leading role of the Communist Party in the affairs of the state.
"This is definitely the final nail in the coffin of the leading role of the Communist Party," said Janusz Onyskiewicz, the Solidarity spokesman. "This is the end of the whole concept."
In Kennebunkport, Me., where President Bush is spending a summer vacation, White House Press Secretary Marlin Fitzwater held out the possibility that greater U.S. assistance for Poland might follow a change in the government there.
No Added U.S. Aid Now
But for the time being, he said, "it is really premature" to think about increasing U.S. aid to Poland beyond the approximately $100 million that Bush pledged during a visit there last month.
"We don't have a lot of money to offer," Fitzwater said, referring to the federal budget deficit. But, he said, "It is something we would have to consider down the road."
Beyond expressing encouragement for a shift to a non-Communist government, as officials have done in the past, the White House spokesman declined to comment on the prospects for change in Warsaw, saying formal White House reaction would await an official announcement there.
Among the parade of Communist officials calling on Jaruzelski on Friday was Mieczyslaw F. Rakowski, the new Communist Party chief, who has lately been exhorting rank-and-file Communists to respond boldly to what he calls "a struggle for power" in Poland.
However, it seemed unlikely that Rakowski or other party hard-liners would be able to derail the Mazowiecki nomination. Under Polish law, Jaruzelski, who recently stepped aside as Communist Party leader to assume his duties as president, must submit his nomination for prime minister to the Sejm, or lower house of Parliament, for approval.
With Solidarity's forces in the Parliament augmented by two new coalition partners, the United Peasants' Party and the Democratic Party, the election of a Solidarity candidate is virtually assured. The Solidarity alliance now controls the Sejm by 264 to 196.
It was Walesa and his envoy Jaroslaw Kaszynski, a Solidarity deputy in the Sejm, who negotiated the coalition with the United Peasants and the Democrats, persuading the two minor parties--with 103 votes between them--to abandon a 40-year-old partnership with the Communists and come over to the Solidarity side.
From the archives: Solidarity Editor Will Be Premier
Mazowiecki, a Longtime Activist, Expects Formal Selection Today
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