Polish presidential election, 1990

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Polish presidential election, 1990 (Round 2)
25 November 1990 (first round)
9 December 1990 (second round)
→ 1995

  Lech Walesa.jpg Stan Tyminski.jpg
Nominee Lech Wałęsa Stanisław Tymiński
Party Solidarity Independent
Popular vote 10,622,696 3,683,098
Percentage 74.3% 25.7%

President before election

Wojciech Jaruzelski


Lech Wałęsa

Herb Polski.svg
This article is part of a series on the
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Presidential elections were held in Poland on 25 November 1990, with a second round on 9 December.[1] They were the first direct presidential elections in the history of Poland. Before World War II, presidents were elected by the Sejm, in 1952—1989 presidency was absent at all (some of its function were fulfilled by State Council of Poland at that time). The leader of the Solidarity movement, Lech Wałęsa, won the first round. However, he did not earn over 50% of the vote, which led to a runoff election. Wałęsa faced Canadian businessman (of Polish origin) Stanisław Tymiński in the second round, defeating him easily.


Wałęsa was an electrician and union leader with the image of an emotional, shirtsleeves populist. Lawyer and former Solidarity legal advisor Mazowiecki appeared as a more respectable and intellectual leader but also as more of a compromiser. The first non-communist prime minister, Tadeusz Mazowiecki, was very popular and widely considered a front-runner. Despite Tymiński's defeat he had not only humiliated Mazowiecki (one of the best-known and most-respected figures in Polish politics), but also forced Wałęsa (who at that time was a national hero) to endure a second ballot.

The reasons for Tymiński's unexpected success remain unclear. His vague promise to create wealth for everyone quickly, supported by his image as a patriotic Pole who had succeeded abroad, was well received at a time of radical political change and a worsening economic situation. There was increasing disappointment with the trench warfare that had broken out within the former anti-communist opposition so a mysterious, honest and patriotic stranger "straight out of nowhere" had considerable appeal.

Another factor was that Tymiński's use of political-marketing methods unknown in Poland at the time. A key element of his campaign was an omnipresent black briefcase, allegedly containing "secret documents" which would destroy his rivals' careers when the time was right. Although the elections passed without the briefcase being opened, its presence attracted constant attention. Tymiński's adversaries adopted a similar strategy; the daily Gazeta Wyborcza (which supported Mazowiecki) reported that Tymiński had had contact with the secret police, a story that was not withdrawn until after the elections. After the election Tymiński tried to establish a new political party, but quickly disappeared from the political scene in Poland.



Candidate Party First round Second round
Votes % Votes %
Lech Wałęsa Solidarity 6,569,889 40.0 10,622,696 74.3
Stanisław Tymiński Independent 3,797,605 23.1 3,683,098 25.7
Tadeusz Mazowiecki Independent 2,973,264 18.1
Włodzimierz Cimoszewicz Independent[a] 1,514,025 9.2
Roman Bartoszcze Polish People's Party 1,176,175 7.2
Leszek Moczulski Confederation of Independent Poland 411,516 2.5
Invalid/blank votes 259,526 344,243
Total 16,702,000 100 14,650,037 100
Registered voters/turnout 27,545,625 60.6 27,436,078 53.4
Source: Nohlen & Stöver

a Although an independent, Cimoszewicz was supported by Social Democracy of the Republic of Poland.


  1. ^ Nohlen, D & Stöver, P (2010) Elections in Europe: A data handbook, p1491 ISBN 978-3-8329-5609-7
  • Obwieszczenie PKW z dn. 26 XI 1990 r., Dziennik Ustaw. Nr 83, poz. 483 (Polish)
  • Obwieszczenie PKW z dn. 10 XII 1990 r., Dz.U. Nr 85, poz. 499 (Polish)