WARSAW, Poland--Parliament yesterday approved the first East bloc government not led by Communists, giving half the seats to Solidarity but reserving the key ministries controlling defense and police for the Communists.
"For the first time in half a century, Poland has a government that can be considered by millions of people as their own," said Solidarity leader Lech Walesa from Gdansk, where the independent movement struggled through eight years of Communist repression to its triumph.
"My biggest dream has come true," said Prime Minister Tadeusz Mazowiecki, also of Solidarity, after his Cabinet was approved by a vote of 402 in favor, none against and 13 abstentions.
The new Cabinet--called the Council of Ministers--includes Mazowiecki, 11 Solidarity members and a foreign minister independent but sympathetic to Solidarity. The Communists hold four seats.
The Communists will also retain considerable influence through President Wojciech Jaruzelski, a Communist. The new government also has promised allegiance to the Soviet-led Warsaw Pact military alliance.
But Mazowiecki, once a political prisoner, promised an overhaul of Communist institutions in an eloquent speech that he was forced to interrupt for 45 minutes because of exhaustion.
The main focus was Poland's economy. Mazowiecki said the ranks of the poor were swelling and warned that production and living standards, already lower than 10 years ago, were likely to decline further.
"The new government will act under the pressure that at any moment the construction of democracy that only just started can collapse under the economic crisis," he said.
He demanded immediate steps to combat triple-digit inflation, including tax reform, making the zloty convertible with Western currency and creating a stock exchange.
He also called for reforms to the police and the justice system, more liberal laws on associations, gatherings and censorship, a new democratic constitution, the removal of political and ideological barriers to promotion, fully autonomous universities and an end to "catastrophic" environmental pollution.
"Poland can be lifted only by a society of free citizens and by a government that enjoys the confidence of the clear majority of society," Mazowiecki said.
Marian Orzechowski, head of the Communist parliament delegation, rose to support Mazowiecki.
"My party is not going into opposition," Orzechowski said. "We will govern together and together be responsible for the fate of the nation."
In the Soviet Union, Foreign Ministry spokesperson Gennady I. Gerasimov said. "We are prepared to cooperate with [the new] government and develop our relations with Poland."
State Department spokesperson Margaret Tutwiler said in Washington that the government "can count on our continued support."
In addition to the defense and interior ministries, the Communists will run the strategically important Transportation Ministry. They also retain a degree of responsibility for the economy through the Foreign Trade Ministry.
Mazowiecki told Parliament he came "as a man of Solidarity, faithful to the legacy of August" 1980, when Solidarity became the first legal independent union in the East bloc.
"The legacy of August is also the ability to overcome disputes and divisions, the ability to find partnership and renounce the idea of taking revenge for the past," he said.