Communist Party maverick Boris Yeltsin said today that he is alarmed by the growing power of President Mikhail S. Gorbachev and proposed that Gorbachev’s leadership be put to the test of an annual vote of confidence by the people.
Yeltsin, delivering his first speech to the new Congress of People’s Deputies since being elected to the legislature in a dramatic political comeback, said, “The current congress, constitution and party have invested the head of the state with extraordinary power.”
“This can bring about a temptation to solve all problems by methods of coercion, and we can find ourselves in the captivity of a new authoritarian regime before we can notice it,” he said on the sixth day of the congress’s maiden session.
Yeltsin said in the nationally televised address that there is an “alarming tendency of growth of personal influence and power of the head of the state while economic conditions deteriorate and differences between nationalities become more acute.”
To check such a tendency, Yeltsin said, “I am proposing that a law be adopted on holding a yearly referendum on whether the people have confidence in the head of the state.”
Yeltsin, 59, was elected on a wave of popular support after being kicked out of the ruling Politburo two years earlier for criticizing the pace of Gorbachev’s reforms and party privileges.
In another challenge to Gorbachev, legislator Yuri Vlasov, a former Olympic weightlifting champion, demanded a law of impeachment “under which the head of the state would have to be removed for hiding the truth.”
He called the sacrosanct KGB secret police an “underground empire” and demanded that its budget and the number of its employees be made known. He was given the first standing ovation of the congress. Only the military delegates in the audience withheld applause.
Yeltsin, repeating the demands that gave him 6 million Moscow votes during the March general elections, said special hospitals reserved for senior government officials should be opened to the general public.
He also asked for an end to the system of nomenklatura, by which party candidates have been automatically selected for positions of power the last 70 years.
“We should remove from our lexicon even the word nomenklatura, " Yeltsin said to slight applause in the Kremlin hall, largely made up of conservative delegates.
Yeltsin, who was fired as Moscow party boss and from the Politburo after saying that perestroika, Gorbachev’s program of economic and political reform, was not changing the country fast enough and that authorities should concentrate on solving at least one problem, repeated to the congress the same suggestion.