Polish parliament gives itself some real say

The Polish parliament has made a start in the promised "renewal" of public life. It has reclaimed its former watchdog role over government spending and the behavior of its officials.

In an Oct. 8 vote it brought the Supreme Chamber of Control back under parliament's direct, exclusive supervision. In recent years the chamber had been dominated by the prime minister. Now parliament is reasserting control over the chamber and its investigation of abuse of position and financial corruption in high places.

Mieczyslaw Moczar was re-elected chairman of the watchdog committee. He was identified with the repressive measures of the Gomulka years, and that has raised some concern among liberals here. He seems to have the major role in the corruption clean-up because of his seniority in the party and his reputation for personal probity.

The regime's worry over widespread disenchantment among the party's strongest support groups is evident in the latest government changes, the third shakeup since the start of September. Ministers who had been in charge of mining and steel industries were dismissed Oct. 8 as part of the "fresh start" policy. Both those sectors had been key areas of strike action and general unrest.

Proceedings are imminent against Maciej Szczepanski, a political "fat cat" and former head of Polish radio and television. A member of parliament, his immunity was being lifted so that prosecution could proceed.

The evident corruption of many members of the Communist Party is not the only problem the party is facing. Its handling -- or neglect -- of pressing social needs over the past five years and what is now repeatedly condemned as the "arrogance" of the past leadership have brought it into disrepute. Some 131,000 workers, many of them highly qualified ones, have left the party in recent years.

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