Eastern Europe Populism on the March

A weakness for messianic leaders and ethnic mistrust, both lethal to democracy, infect the region's new democracies

If the age of miracles is over, no one has told Lech Walesa. Poland's ruddy- cheeked hero of peasant origins rode to his nation's highest office last week by a 3-to-1 popular vote. For supporters, the former electrician's victory was -- well, electrifying. As they greeted the President-elect in Gdansk with sparklers and brass bands, Walesa took time to remind Poles of what heroic struggles can accomplish. Declared the country's first postcommunist choice as head of state: "Since we defeated the system without one gunshot or one drop of blood, we can dare to build a new system."

Dare, yes --...

Want the full story?

Subscribe Now

Subscribe
Subscribe

Get TIME the way you want it

  • One Week Digital Pass — $4.99
  • Monthly Pay-As-You-Go DIGITAL ACCESS$2.99
  • One Year ALL ACCESSJust $30!   Best Deal!
    Print Magazine + Digital Edition + Subscriber-only Content on TIME.com

Learn more about the benefits of being a TIME subscriber

If you are already a subscriber sign up — registration is free!