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POLAND SAYS `NO’ TO COMMUNISTS

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By any measure, the once-outlawed Solidarity trade union won a landslide victory this week in Poland. It was the freest election in Eastern Europe since World War II, and the lopsided results must have sent a chill through some other communist-dominated nations.

In every possible way, voters said "no" to the communist regime and chose other alternatives.The election was set up so that Solidarity could participate, but no matter what happened, power would remain in the hands of the Communist Party. Yet because Solidarity captured nearly everything available, government control is shakier than anyone had imagined.

Unofficial tallies show that Solidarity candidates received 70 percent majorities against government candidates. Solidarity won perhaps as many as 92 of the seats in the new 100-member Senate. The Senate has limited veto power over government-sponsored legislation.

In the 460-member Sejm, or lower house, opposition candidates were allowed to challenge only 35 percent of the positions. But Solidarity swept virtually all of those 161 seats.

And in the most embarrassing outcome of all, most of the 35 top government officials on a special unopposed list had their names crossed off by so many voters than they failed to get the necessary 50 percent to win. They will keep their government posts but cannot be seated in the parliament. What happens now in this particular situation is unclear.

Yet there is such a thing as winning too overwhelmingly, particularly in a regime loosening its control and trying out free elections for the first time in more than four decades.

In an ominous statement, a spokesman for the communist government said the election results may not have been "the real expressive will of the majority" in Poland. That comment drew laughter from reporters at a Warsaw press conference, but it is a cause for caution and concern, nonetheless.

The communist regime has begun calling for a coalition government with Solidarity, but that offer has been rejected by the union, at least in the early going.

The danger is that old-guard communists, worried that they could lose their privileged positions, might try to block the process of further political reform, although a Communist Party spokesman promised that reform will continue.

Solidarity's responsibility is to take what it has won and become a responsible voice in Poland's government. It should not jeopardize the situation with hot-headed calls for wildcat strikes and political action.

A wonderful beginning has been made. If Solidarity handles it well and helps solve some of Poland's serious economic problems, there will be the opportunity to open more doors to democracy in the future.