In his first presidential campaign, Kwasniewski and his party emphasized social-democratic values, professionalism, and cooperative rather than confrontational tactics. The base of support was mixed, and included the Communist old guard, the unemployed, peasants, and some of the youth vote. Immediately after being sworn in as president, Kwasniewski was faced with the Oleksy affair (Prime Minister Josef Oleksy was rumored to be a Russian spy) that brought down the government. Kwasniewski came under some fire by the opposition over his silence over the affair. While he accepted Oleksy's resignation, he did not call for it.
In his inauguration speech, Kwasniewski emphasized unity over factionalism. He discounted any speculation that Poland would turn back or away from its course heading towards a prosperous democratic system. Kwasniewski also stated that he wished to improve relations with the Roman Catholic church, which had backed Walesa.
In ruling with an opposition government, Kwasniewski was able to use his veto power effectively, securing pension reform that would make it easier for former soldiers to retire so that younger men would have more time to meet the requirements of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), which Poland joined in 1999. He also vetoed a plan to stop training school teachers to conduct sex education. The AWS preferred to leave the issues of abortion and sexual education to the family and the Roman Catholic church.
His 2000 reelection showed him wanting to continue the path of economic reform along free-market lines, to press for social reforms, but most of all, to clear the path for Poland's entry into the European Union (EU).