Old Guard Pounded at Polls. SOVIET ELECTIONS. Losers include top party, military leaders
THE Soviet parliamentary elections have delivered a strong anti-establishment punch. Each new batch of election results shows a consistent pattern of nationwide losses for the party machine, a steady round of defeats for senior military officers, and outright victories or unexpectedly good performances by radical independent candidates.
Even more striking than the results themselves is the spontaneity of the anti-establishment tendency: Party leaders and military commanders are losing not only in areas like Leningrad or the Baltics, where independent political organizations are active, sophisticated, and vociferous. They are also going down to defeat in places where independent organizations are either nonexistent or tightly controlled.
Senior Communist Party officials have been defeated in the Ukraine, despite its well-drilled party machine. And in places not known for political activism, like Murmansk in the Arctic Circle, early victims included the commander of the Soviet northern fleet and the regional first secretary.
One result of the election may have been to undermine the authority of the Communist Party Central Committee. The defeat of many Central Committee-level officials suggests that they are incapable of any political organization beyond the wielding of compulsion or privilege.
Though both Soviet and Western observers here have tended to describe the electoral trend as a swing to the left, the term is deceptive. There appear to be at least three partly overlapping political tendencies:
Supporters of radical economic and political reform within the existing framework;
A more ideological political tendency which rejects many of the fundamental assumptions of the present system;
The pro-Yeltsin tendency, a working-class/Russian-heartland rejection of party privileges and arrogance.
This final tendency may in the long run prove to be considerably more conservative than the other two. Thus, while radical reformers say that temporary unemployment and price rises inevitably accompany economic reform, some vocal supporters of Communist Party rebel Boris Yeltsin stressed during the campaign that reform should not be carried out ``at the expense of the workers.''
All three tendencies have in common a general suspicion of the party bureaucracy, which is regarded as overwhelmingly anti-reform. And the latter two seem to be united by a desire for a multiparty system. But they may not get on very well together in the long run.
Some of the more radical new Moscow deputies are certainly not hurrying to get on the Yeltsin bandwagon.
One of them, Arkady Murashev, who during the campaign called openly for a multiparty system, said in a phone interview Tuesday that he wanted to keep his distance from Mr. Yeltsin for the time being.
Yeltsin is definitely progressive and even radical when compared to his peers in age or political background, Mr. Murashev said. ``But in relation to many of the new deputies, he is careful and conservative,'' he added.
The disastrous showing by military men - senior commanders have lost all across the country, from the Baltics to Magadan and Vladivostok - has taken Soviet observers by surprise. The Armed Forces have always been portrayed as one of the untouchable institutions of Soviet society. Now they have been brought down to earth with a bump.
``I just think people now have a different view of the Army,'' said the editor of Murmansk newspaper Polyarnaya Pravda, Anatoly Bavykin, contacted by phone Tuesday. ``Their attitude is no longer very positive.'' Mr. Bavykin ascribed the change to the war in Afghanistan, and to recent revelations about widespread hazing inside the Armed Forces. ``The average reader did not know about these things before, and it had a serious psychological impact,'' he said.
A senior Estonian official offered a different explanation. ``People want an independent deputy, not one who has to follow orders. This is precisely what the elections have been about,'' he said. Military men were thus ruled out ``even before the election began.''
Defeat in the elections for many senior party officials may bring their political careers to a premature end. Speaking at the 19th party conference last June, Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev proposed that party leaders should run for another elective office, the chairmanship of the local soviets. If they failed, he commented, the leadership ``should draw the appropriate conclusions'' - a piece of jargon that usually means dismissal. The same logic could also apply to these elections.
Many of the defeated were Central Committee-level leaders, like the party chiefs of Kiev, the capital of the Ukraine, or Moscow's mayor, Valery Saikin.
Perhaps the unhappiest person at the moment, however, is Yuri Solovev, a nonvoting member of the ruling Politburo. Mr. Solovev, party chief of Leningrad, received 44 percent of the vote in an uncontested election. The depth of Solovev's embarrassment was shown by his office's brusque refusal even to confirm the figure. Three other Politburo members running in uncontested elections, including the Ukraine party boss Vladimir Shcherbitsky, won comfortably.
The surprisingly high number of party casualties in the Ukraine should help Mr. Gorbachev in his painstaking effort to dismantle the Shcherbitsky political machine. Party chief since 1972, Shcherbitsky is the last holdover from the now-discredited rule of Leonid Brezhnev, who died in 1982.
Meanwhile Yeltsin's political revenge was getting sweeter with every return. Unofficial reports Tuesday from his old political base in Sverdlovsk indicated that the only person who had spoken out in his defense at last year's party conference - Vladimir Volkov, a party organizer in a local factory - had been triumphantly elected. But the Sverdlovsk party boss, Leonid Bobykin, who had repudiated Yeltsin at the same conference, had lost heavily.
Sunday's elections were not conclusive in all electoral districts. In districts where no candidate won an absolute majority, there will be either a run-off election or completely new elections will be called. What The Voting Was About What's New:
The Congress of People's Deputies is the country's first popularly contested national legislature since 1917.
Direct elections were held for 1,500 delegates.
Another 750 delegates were appointed by Communist Party and party-affiliated organizations. What's Next:
The 2,250 delegates are expected to convene within the next month to establish a standing parliament of about 450 members and to elect a president (most likely Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev). The revamped Supreme Soviet will stay in session from six to eight months a year.
The method of selecting the standing parliament is not clear. Mr. Gorbachev has suggested that delegates from the Congress of People's Deputies will be rotated in and out of the standing parliament. But popular rival Boris Yeltsin, who speaks of forming a ``left-revolutionary bloc'' in the new parliament, said that the congress itself should choose the Supreme Soviet.