Kwaśniewski, Aleksander

Kwaśniewski, Aleksander kwäshnyĕfˈskē [key], 1954–, Polish politician, president of Poland (1995–), b. Bialogard. He studied economics at the Univ. of Gdańsk, joined the Communist party at 23, and was an organizer of the Socialist Union of Polish Students during the late 1970s. He was the editor of ITD (1981–84) and of Sztandar Mlodych (1984–85), both youth-oriented party newspapers, where he earned a reputation as a moderate reformist thinker. When martial law was declared (1981) and many left the party, he remained and served (1985–89) as the government's minister of youth and sports. In 1991, after the collapse of the Communist party, Kwaśniewski, whom some have called pragmatic and others have dubbed an opportunist, was a founder of the Democratic Left Alliance (SLD), a social democratic party. In 1991 he became a member of parliament, and the SLD's victory in the 1993 elections were largely due to his skills. In 1995, promising to ease the problems caused by Poland's abrupt shift to a free-market economy, he was elected president, narrowly defeating Lech Wałęsa; he was reelected in 2000.

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