Soviets Drop Automatic Approval of New Laws

Associated Press

Members of the Supreme Soviet today for the first time voted against drafting laws put forward by the executive Presidium. The laws to increase government control over public demonstrations still passed easily.

The break in the string of unanimous votes indicated that President Mikhail S. Gorbachev has had some success in his drive to democratize Soviet society and encourage open debate.

A total of 31 deputies voted against a decree by the Presidium, the body’s executive council. The measure gives broad powers to paramilitary police to keep order at demonstrations. The number of votes in favor was 1,348, with 24 abstentions.

The Supreme Soviet’s rubber-stamp practice also was broken on a second decree passed by the Presidium on July 28. That one requires permission for public demonstrations and outlines fines and jail terms for violators. A total of 13 deputies voted against the measure, 1,368 voted in favor and four abstained.


Both votes were by a show of hands.

The Supreme Soviet also unanimously adopted a $795-billion budget for 1989.

The two decrees were the subject of extensive coverage in the official Soviet press, with some articles saying they should be amended.

Activists complained that the paramilitary police, who have been breaking up demonstrations in Moscow and several other cities since the Presidium adopted the decrees, used brutal tactics.


Pavel P. Goryunov, a Supreme Soviet deputy from the Estonian city of Tartu, argued in a 10-minute speech that the decrees should not be adopted at the national level, and that local government councils, not the national Interior Ministry, should decide when to use paramilitary troops to quell demonstrations.

He was followed by two other delegates who spoke in favor of the decrees, a Moscow subway worker and the chairman of the Kiev City Council.