Yeltsin Wins by Four Votes : Gorbachev Says He’s Worried by Archrival’s New Post : Reformer Is Elected in Russia
Radical reformer Boris N. Yeltsin overcame opposition from Mikhail S. Gorbachev to win the presidency of the largest Soviet republic today in what he called “Russia’s social, economic and spiritual rebirth.”
After three hard-fought ballots in the 1,060-member Russian Congress of People’s Deputies, Yeltsin won 535 votes--four more than the majority he needed. Russian Premier Alexander Vlasov received 467 votes.
Yeltsin now poses a substantial challenge to Gorbachev, who retains the two most powerful jobs in the country: president of the Soviet Union and general secretary of the Soviet Communist Party.
But Gennady I. Gerasimov, spokesman for the Soviet Foreign Ministry, said Yeltsin’s election could strengthen Gorbachev’s campaign for economic reforms.
“Yeltsin’s victory is an expression of general discontent with how things are going in the Soviet Union’s biggest republic,” Gerasimov told reporters at the United Nations in New York.
“The Soviet Union is a democracy, so we accept what the Russian Parliament has decided. It may be a blessing in disguise. President Gorbachev has his critics from both the left and the right, and possibly it is better to have the election of a critic from the left,” he said.
Igor Malashenko, foreign policy adviser to the Communist Party and who accompanied Gerasimov at the news conference, agreed.
“This victory of Yeltsin has been misinterpreted as a problem for Gorbachev,” Malashenko said. “Yeltsin is also a reformer, although he reflects concepts which are different from Gorbachev.
“In this respect I believe it (the election) can strengthen the cause of reform in the Soviet Union. Today, many people blame Gorbachev for problems and now they have another person to blame.”
After the election result was announced in the Grand Kremlin Palace, the burly 59-year-old Yeltsin strode to the podium, received warm applause and cheers from fellow lawmakers, and was handed a bouquet of flowers.
Yeltsin said he felt “a certain satisfaction, but at the same time, I have much more a feeling of responsibility at this turning point for Russia and the country.”
“I pledge not to spare anything--health or time--to do everything to get out of this crisis and lead Russia to better times,” Yeltsin said in his victory speech.
He called the day “the beginning of the road to Russia’s social, economic and spiritual rebirth, the way out of the crisis and toward the blossoming of Russia as a sovereign, independent government in the framework of our union.”
Gorbachev actively opposed Yeltsin’s election, telling the Russian congress last week that his platform of moving political and economic power from central to local authorities would lead to a “breakup of the union.”
The Russian federation is by far the largest of the 15 Soviet republics, stretching from the Baltic Sea in the west to the Pacific Ocean in the east. It is home to half the country’s 285 million people and includes Moscow.