Historical story

The worst election campaign in the history of Poland?

Do you think that Bronisław Komorowski and Magdalena Ogórek have a bad campaign? 25 years ago Tadeusz Mazowiecki showed that you can have recognition, competence and support from the media, and yet lose grossly with a man from nowhere.

After the round table and parliamentary elections in June 1989, the slogan "your president, our prime minister" came true. General Wojciech Jaruzelski became the head of the state, and Tadeusz Mazowiecki became the head of the government. However, it quickly became apparent that the president needed to change. Already in March 1990, Lech Wałęsa proposed his candidacy for the highest office.

The reforms of the Mazowiecki government were criticized on all sides. A wave of social protests swept across the country, the participants of which accused the introduced changes of being too radical. On the other hand, Lech Wałęsa's camp demanded that the transformation be accelerated. In this situation, Mazowiecki decided to ask the voters for their opinion. He submitted his candidacy in the presidential election to check how many Poles support his political line.

Adam Michnik's support did not help ... (photo:Mariusz Kubik, CC BY-SA 3.0).

The perfect candidate ... on paper

It seemed to be the perfect candidate. He was supported by the majority of the intelligentsia and academia as well as the opinion-forming press headed by Gazeta Wyborcza and Tygodnik Powszechny. The prime minister himself was a widely respected former oppositionist, one of the fathers of Solidarity, a participant in the round table deliberations. He was known for his composure, extensive knowledge and the ability to find a compromise.

The article is based on the book by Andrzej Brzeziecki entitled Tadeusz Mazowiecki. Biography of our prime minister ”(Znak Horyzont 2015).

There was great optimism in the election staff headed by Henryk Woźniakowski and Aleksander Hall. Woźniakowski cited the polls that gave Mazowiecki a win in the first round ...

How not to run an election campaign

The truth was, however, that there was a huge mess in Mazowiecki's staff. There was no person responsible for the work of the entire team, and as a result, there was no consistency in creating the media message. Many staff members left during the campaign. Years later, they recall that no coherent campaign concept was established and good ideas were blocked.

An example of these chaotic actions is the situation described by Andrzej Brzeziecki in the book Tadeusz Mazowiecki. Biography of our prime minister ” :

One of the consultants' ideas was, for example, Mazowiecki's participation in a rock concert Lech Janerka in the Spodek Arena in Katowice. However, it was abandoned because… the seriousness of Mazowiecki's visit to Silesia would clash with the atmosphere of a rock party!

Should the prime minister and presidential candidate appear at rock concerts by musicians such as Lech Janerka? (photo:Eloy.wikia, CC BY-SA 3.0).

It was all the result of a complete inexperience. The program of Buckwheat was laboriously forged and was presented only at the turn of October and November. A few weeks before the elections!

The deepening chaos in the activities of the prime minister's staff was tried to control the advertising specialist Marcin Mroszczak (known from later Tyskie or Ikea campaigns), brought from Belgium. Then the most famous slogan of Mazowiecki appeared - "Strength of peace". Lech Wałęsa's staff laughed at them , arguing that the Prime Minister cannot even catch fleas.

Candidate involuntarily

Marketing activities were doomed to failure. Tadeusz Mazowiecki's main opponent turned out to be ... Tadeusz Mazowiecki himself. Advertising it was similar to organizing a presidential campaign for Hamlet One of the staff members said later. The Prime Minister himself admitted years later that he was a terrible candidate for a candidate.

An ideal candidate, a terrible candidate (photo:Artur Klose, CC BY-SA 2.0).

Mazowiecki did not participate in the meetings and avoided setting the calendar. Even a small scene with him had to be recorded ten times. He could not build an image, smiling at voters was difficult for him. And the presidential election is the most personal of all! It couldn't have ended well.

Instead of seeking media attention, Mazowiecki avoided them (photo:Fryta 73. CC BY-SA 2).

Today, journalists follow the candidates step by step, while they seek media attention. It seems incredible, but Mazowiecki thought idealistically that he should not take part in election rallies. His program was supposed to be the most important.

Henryk Woźniakowski, quoted by Brzeziecki, describes his behavior as follows:

We regretted that he hardly reacted to the enthusiasm of the crowd welcoming him (…). People clapped and he walked through the room gloomy and hunched over, without any gesture, he also spoke without emotion, without conviction (...). For him, appearing at the election rally was a great burden, almost a suffering.

In short:defeat was inevitable.

Nation Choice

The current prime minister obtained only 18% of the votes and did not go to the second round. Even until recently, Stan Tyminski, a mysterious emigrant and member of the Canadian Libertarian Party, fared better than him. The usually reserved Bronisław Geremek was said to have said that Poles were not grown up to democracy.

Wałęsa and Mazowiecki in harmony years later (photo:Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Poland, CC BY-ND 2.0).

Tadeusz Mazowiecki decided that his countrymen gave him a vote of no confidence and resigned the government. He followed logic, but was accused of taking offense at the Poles. His defeat was largely the result of a disastrous election campaign, which today's spin doctors probably show as an example of all possible mistakes.

Editor:Roman Sidorski; photo edition:Roman Sidorski


Trivia is the essence of our website. Short materials devoted to interesting anecdotes, surprising details from the past, strange news from the old press. Reading that will take you no more than 3 minutes, based on single sources. This particular material is based on:

  • Andrzej Brzeziecki, Tadeusz Mazowiecki. Biography of our Prime Minister , Znak Horyzont, Krakow 2015.