Mikhail S. Gorbachev handily won reelection today as leader of the Communist Party as delegates who had assailed his policies concluded that their party can not survive without him.
Although opposition appeared to melt away as the delegates considered electing a new general secretary, a sizable anti-Gorbachev sentiment was evident in the balloting.
Delegates at the 28th congress of the Soviet Communist Party voted 3,411 to 1,116 to keep Gorbachev as general secretary. His opponent, Teimuraz Avaliani, a Siberian party leader, received 501 votes to 4,026. The vote was held on the eighth day of the congress.
Gorbachev nodded silently at the results but did not smile as the delegates responded to his victory with loud applause.
In a brief acceptance speech, Gorbachev expressed "gratitude for enormous support and trust" the congress had placed in him. "I thank you for this," he said.
"You elected me after hearing my positions. I take my election as support for my positions," the 59-year-old president and party leader said.
But he added that he will take into account the criticism leveled against him and will reach "the most serious, far-reaching conclusions."
The congress, which many expected could pose a challenge to Gorbachev, ended in triumph for him. Delegates approved Gorbachev's proposal to reorganize and expand the party Politburo, transferring greater power to the government that Gorbachev heads.
Gorbachev was nominated as general secretary in a secret vote at the Grand Kremlin Palace, a short walk from the hall where the congress is being held.
He received warm applause as he stepped up to the congress podium to accept the nomination.
"I carry the most responsibility for what has been done," he told the delegates, accepting the nomination. "You have the possibility; you have a lot of information; it's right that you should decide."
Gorbachev and seven others were nominated for the top Communist Party post.
Among those nominated from the floor of the congress for the party leader's post were Minister of Internal Affairs Vadim V. Bakatin, Foreign Minister Eduard A. Shevardnadze and Gorbachev adviser Alexander N. Yakovlev. All withdrew their names except for Gorbachev and Avaliani, party leader in the Siberian city of Kiselyovsk.
"I do not see a stronger, more experienced" candidate than Gorbachev, Shevardnadze said.
Avaliani, 58, was also head of a strike committee in a labor protest for higher pay and better working conditions in the Kuznetsk Coal Basin last summer.
The nomination of the stocky, white-haired Avaliani came on the eve of a one-day miners strike protesting the government's inability to fulfill promises it made to end last year's strike. Miners are demanding the government resign.
Although nominations were open to the floor, conservatives did not nominate Politburo hard-liner and key Gorbachev critic, Yegor K. Ligachev.
"The congress did not nominate him. That says it all," said Moscow party boss Yuri Prokofiev. Asked if he thought Ligachev's political career was over, Prokofiev replied: "Yes, I think so."