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Poland’s ex-communists win

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WARSAW, Poland — A leftist party with roots in Poland's former communist regime won a majority in parliamentary elections Sunday, according to exit polls that also indicated the political extinction of Solidarity.

Solidarity — the party that led Poland out of communism 12 years ago but has splintered to a remnant of its former self under a string of defections, infighting and corruption scandals — failed to get any seats, according to two separate exit polls.

The results, though not unexpected, was a stunning defeat for the Solidarity bloc, which led the last government and was formed from the revered movement that toppled communism.

Cheers went up at the headquarters of the Democratic Left Alliance as results were posted. The party also won control of the Senate with 75 of 100 seats, exit polls showed.

"It's the first time since 1989 that any political group got so many votes and a majority of seats in the parliament," said party leader Leszek Miller, who is poised to become Poland's next prime minister.

"This means a great responsibility for us," he said. "The outgoing government is leaving a lot of outstanding problems that need to be dealt with."

The Solidarity government brought Poland into NATO and made impressive economic and administrative reforms, but the rapid pace of change and unemployment that has soared to 16 percent left many Poles feeling insecure.

"We have taken political risk and that costs," said Jerzy Buzek, the outgoing Solidarity prime minister.

A looming budget deficit further undermined the government's dim re-election chances and will present the next Cabinet with the unsavory chore of imposing an austerity plan likely to be unpopular.

If the results hold, Democratic Left Alliance and its small ally, the Labor Union, will have won an outright majority in the 460-seat Sejm, parliament's lower house.