In his first public assessment of Sunday’s historic legislative elections, Soviet President Mikhail S. Gorbachev said Wednesday that the defeat of scores of top Communist Party candidates was a natural part of the democratic process and should not be cause for alarm.
Speaking to a hastily called gathering of senior Soviet editors at the offices of the party’s policy-making Central Committee, Gorbachev declared that the Soviet people have chosen the candidates they feel are the strongest supporters of radical reform, whether party members or independents.
According to one editor present, Vitaly A. Korotich of the liberal weekly magazine Ogonyok, Gorbachev said the elections provided the first lessons of democracy and that the days when Soviet leaders were elected by no one and responsible to no one are over.
“He made no direct mention of any single candidate or race,” Korotich said. “He said that we needed democracy and that pluralism gives people the possibility to go their own way. The people, he said, supported candidates who wanted to do something and work for change.”
According to Korotich, Gorbachev “said that when we dreamed about building a democratic society, it meant that there would be winners and losers in elections--that is natural--but that when it was over we all have to work together.”
In a remark that Korotich said he thought may have been aimed at Kremlin rebel Boris N. Yeltsin--who won 89% of the vote in his Moscow constituency--Gorbachev declared that there was a danger of some people promising a great deal without thinking out clearly how they could deliver.
Gorbachev also said that the party is ridding itself of privileges such as special clothing and food stores, but he warned against those who would use that issue to divide people. Yeltsin, who was ousted as Moscow party chief and non-voting member of the ruling party Politburo in 1987, made the abuse of party privilege a key issue in his populist election campaign.