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The Warsaw Voice » Other » June 3, 2009
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20 Years of Independence
June 3, 2009   
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June 4-the first partially free election to the Sejm (lower house of parliament) and free election to the Senate; a landslide victory for the democratic opposition, which won 260 of 261 seats available to it under the election law at the time

July 19-Gen. Wojciech Jaruzelski elected president of the People's Republic of Poland by the National Assembly (Sejm + Senate) by a one-vote majority

Aug. 24-the swearing-in of Prime Minister Tadeusz Mazowiecki's cabinet, the first noncommunist government in postwar Poland

Dec. 31-"Republic of Poland" officially reinstated as the country's name, together with the national emblem of an eagle with a crown

Jan. 1-the launch of the Balcerowicz Plan, named after Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Leszek Balcerowicz, a plan to transform the country's centrally planned economy into a liberal free-market system

Jan. 30-the last congress of the Polish United Workers' Party (the communist party-PZPR) ending with it dissolving itself; it was replaced by the Social Democratic Party of the Republic of Poland (SdRP), which was joined by most of the PZPR's activists

July 13-the formation of the Ministry of Ownership Changes whose task was to oversee privatization in the economy

Nov. 25 and Dec. 9-Poland's first general presidential election. Solidarity leader Lech Wałęsa won in the first round with 39.7 percent of the vote, followed by Peru-based businessman Stanisław Tymiński (23.1 percent), who unexpectedly defeated Prime Minister Tadeusz Mazowiecki (18.8 percent). The turnout was 60 percent
Nov. 25-the resignation of Mazowiecki's government
Dec. 9-Wałęsa elected president, winning more than 74 percent of the vote in the election's second round; the turnout was 53 percent

Jan. 12-the government of Jan Krzysztof Bielecki appointed
April 16-the first session of the Warsaw Stock Exchange
Oct. 27-the first fully free parliamentary elections after World War II; the effect was the most fragmented parliament in Poland's history, with 14 political parties. The Democratic Union (UD) had the best showing, at 12.32 percent. The turnout was 43 percent.

Dec. 23-the coalition government of Jan Olszewski formed

June 4/5-a vote of no confidence passed by the parliament in Olszewski's government, motioned by President Wałęsa after the "night of the files," a scandal surrounding the publication of the "Macierewicz list" (from the name of Antoni Macierewicz, then minister of internal affairs)-a list of alleged agents of the former communist security service. Among the names on the list was Wałęsa himself and many other leading activists of the former democratic opposition.

July 10-the government of Hanna Suchocka (from the UD) appointed by the Sejm

Oct. 17-the "Small Constitution" passed by the Sejm; this was a law that regulated relations between the legislative and executive branches of government in Poland

May 28-Suchocka's government dismissed by the Sejm following a vote of no confidence, by a majority of just one vote

Sept. 19-parliamentary elections; the winner was the Democratic Left Alliance (SLD, 20.41 percent); the turnout was 53 percent. Six parties made it into the parliament

Oct. 26-the government of Waldemar Pawlak (from the Polish People's Party-PSL) appointed

December-the start of the Mass Privatization Program for transforming 512 state-owned enterprises into companies controlled by 15 National Investment Funds through a system of universal share certificates distributed among 27 million citizens; the certificates, distributed between November 1995 and November 1996, were collected by 96 percent of those entitled to them

Jan. 1-redenomination of the zloty at a ratio of 1:10,000
March 7-after Pawlak's resignation, the SLD's Józef Oleksy became the new prime minister

Nov. 5 and 19-presidential election; the SLD's Aleksander Kwaśniewski won 35.11 percent of the vote in the first round, ahead of Lech Wałęsa, who garnered 33.11 percent; Kwaśniewski was elected president after securing 51.72 percent of the vote in the second round

Feb. 18-a referendum on property rights in which citizens had to answer several questions, including one on the rules of privatization; due to a turnout of only 32 percent the referendum was declared invalid

March 7-Oleksy's resignation from the post of prime minister as a result of the "Olin affair" involving an accusation, still not explained to this day, put forward by Minister of Internal Affairs Andrzej Milczanowski that Oleksy had been a Russian spy; Oleksy resigned in an atmosphere of political crisis and was replaced by his party colleague Włodzimierz Cimoszewicz

Oct. 3-the Nobel Prize in Literature awarded to poet Wisława Szymborska

Nov. 26-Poland's accession to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD)

April 2-the Constitution passed by the National Assembly
May 25-constitutional referendum; 53.75 percent of voters approved the new constitution; the turnout was 42 percent. The constitution came into force
Sept. 21-parliamentary elections, won by the Solidarity Election Action (AWS) rightist alliance (33.83 percent)

Oct. 31-the coalition government of AWS and the Freedom Union (UW) formed, with Jerzy Buzek as prime minister

Jan. 1-the launch of the government's package of four "big" reforms: of the health service, education, administrative division, and social insurance

Jan. 1-a new administrative division of the country introduced: 16 provinces with names based on the names of regions, with counties restored as units within provinces

March 12-Poland's accession to NATO

June-the UW leaves the government coalition, an AWS minority government begins to govern

Oct. 8-the presidential election won by Kwaśniewski in the first round (53.3 percent). Ex-president Wałęsa, who tried to return to power, won just 1 percent of the vote

Sept. 23-parliamentary elections, won by a coalition of the SLD and Labor Union (UP) with 41.04 of the vote. After four years in power the AWS with 5.6 percent of the vote failed to exceed the 8-percent threshold required for electoral alliances. The AWS's former coalition partner, the UW, won 3.2 percent of the vote and remained outside parliament too, having failed to achieve a 5-percent threshold

Oct. 19-the resignation of Buzek's government, the Sejm's appointment of the SLD/UP and PSL coalition government with Leszek Miller as prime minister

Dec. 13-the end of negotiations, at an EU summit in Copenhagen, on Poland's accession to the European Union

March-the government decides that Poland will join an international military stabilization mission in Iraq

April 16-the signing of Poland's Treaty of Accession to the European Union

June 7-8-referendum on Poland's EU accession; the turnout was 58.85 percent; 77.45 percent voted "yes," while 22.55 percent voted "no"-this meant that citizens approved EU entry

May 1-Poland admitted into the European Union

May 2-the resignation of Miller's government; Marek Belka appointed prime minister by the president, but his cabinet failed to obtain the Sejm's vote of confidence at the first attempt

June 13-Poland's first election to the European Parliament

June 24-Belka's government appointed by the Sejm

Sept. 25-parliamentary elections won by Law and Justice (PiS) with almost 27 percent of the vote; six parties entered parliament; the SLD recorded its worst result in the history of free elections-its showing was just over 11 percent

Oct. 19-the resignation of Belka's government

Oct. 31-after unsuccessful coalition negotiations with the Civic Platform (PO), PiS formed a government with Kazimierz Marcinkiewicz as prime minister

Oct. 9 and 23-presidential election; first round won by PO contender Donald Tusk (36.33 percent), followed by PiS candidate Lech Kaczyński (33.1 percent); Kaczyński won in the second round, with 54.04 percent of the vote

Dec. 23-the swearing-in of Lech Kaczyński as president

May 5-the formation of a government coalition of PiS, Samoobrona and the League of Polish Families (LPR); the leaders of the two smaller parties were appointed deputy prime ministers-Andrzej Lepper (who also became minister of agriculture) and Roman Giertych (who also became minister of education)

July 14-the resignation of Marcinkiewicz, who was replaced as prime minister by PiS leader Jarosław Kaczyński, twin brother of President Lech Kaczyński

April 18-Poland and Ukraine selected to host the European soccer championships in 2012
Sept. 7-breakup of the ruling coalition, leading to the Sejm dissolving itself

Oct. 21-parliamentary elections, won by the PO (45.43 percent) followed by PiS (36.09 percent). The other parties in the Sejm were the Left and Democrats (LiD)-11.72 percent and the PSL-6.74 percent. PiS's former coalition partners, Samoobrona and the LPR, failed to exceed the required voter support threshold. Turnout was 53.88 percent, the highest since 1989.

Nov. 16-the swearing-in of the PO and PSL coalition government with Donald Tusk as prime minister

Dec. 21-Poland joined the Schengen free-travel area

Feb. 26-Poland's official recognition of Kosovo as an independent state
March 29-adoption by the Sejm of the Karta Polaka (Pole's Card), a document enabling people of Polish origin living abroad to obtain legal privileges in Poland; the document is primarily targeted at those who lived in areas that were once part of Poland but became part of the Soviet Union after World War II

May 26-Poland and Sweden brief other European Union countries on a proposal referred to as the Eastern Partnership program, which is designed to encourage six former Soviet republics, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine, to integrate with the EU

Aug. 20-the signing of a Polish-U.S. agreement on a missile shield in which one of two Central European systems was to be set up in Poland
Oct. 31-the end of Poland's military mission in Iraq, begun in March 2003
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