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Gorbachev Summons Top Editors After Vote Setbacks : Coverage of Election Expected

From Reuters

Soviet leader Mikhail S. Gorbachev summoned senior editors to a meeting today, apparently to discuss the results and coverage of Sunday’s election in which a string of senior Communist Party officials were defeated.

Vitaly Korotich, editor of the outspoken weekly Ogonyok, confirmed that the meeting was taking place at the headquarters of the Communist Party Central Committee.

“I have been called. I am just leaving,” he said.

Sources at other news organizations said their editors had similarly been summoned.

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Although no agenda had been set for the meeting, Soviet journalists said they had no doubt that it would be devoted to coverage of the outcome of the poll, the first in 70 years to offer voters a choice of candidates.

Discuss Presentation of Results

“The full results are due out next week and Mikhail Sergeyevich (Gorbachev) will want to discuss how they are going to be presented,” one journalist said.

Three days after the elections, it was clear that no coherent policy had been worked out on how to cover the results. While Moscow dailies published them as they came in, there were no reports of trends.

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Not even the reformist weekly Moscow News gave an indication of the countrywide series of defeats for senior party officials and other officially backed candidates.

On Monday, when the first surprise results were emerging, the evening television news program Vremya devoted only four minutes to the election.

It did not mention the sweeping victory in Moscow of Kremlin rebel Boris N. Yeltsin, who campaigned for swifter reform and an end to party privileges and took 89% of the poll against the authorities’ chosen candidate.

Triumph Tucked Away

His triumph was tucked away with a host of other election results published in the press the next day.

By today, the Communist Party daily Pravda had not reported the results from Leningrad, where the three leading party officials, including regional chief Yuri Solovyov, a junior member of the Politburo, were defeated.

Solovyov, like the three other members of the ruling Politburo who stood in the election, had faced no rival candidate, and merely required 50% of the votes cast to get in.

The Leningrad results were reported by Moscow News, which also published a picture of demonstrators in Solovyov’s Nevsky constituency in the city holding a placard reading, “Cross out the single candidate.”

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Name Crossed Out

According to the evening newspaper Vechernyy Leningrad, more than 130,000 Leningraders crossed out Solovyov’s name on the ballot paper, while 110,000 voted for him.

Despite a declared policy of giving voters a choice of candidates, in a quarter of the 1,500 seats, voters were given only one candidate to endorse or reject.

“The decisive factor was not the personal qualities of the candidate but the fact that some people were trying to clear the way for them too thoroughly,” television commentator Vladimir Tikhomirov said.


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