Soviets Speak; Party Winces. PARLIAMENTARY ELECTIONS
WITH major defeats for the Communist Party machine in the Baltic states and Moscow, the next Soviet parliament will be faced with the functional equivalent of a multiparty system. At least two nonparty viewpoints will be strongly represented in the new parliament when it convenes in a month: The Baltic push for maximum possible autonomy from Moscow and the anti-establishment groundswell provoked by former Politburo member Boris Yeltsin.
In Moscow at press time, Mr. Yeltsin was leading his officially-backed opponent by a margin of more than nine to one. And early results indicated a political trend of equal significance - the consistently strong showing of pro-autonomy candidates in the three Baltic states of Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia.
The Baltic results send a very serious message to Moscow: The demand for autonomy is strong, while support for the local Communist Party leadership depends directly on how far it backs this demand. Many results nationwide were not expected before today.
In Lithuania the official leadership was annihilated by the unofficial mass movement Sajudis. In Latvia candidates backed by the Popular Front did well. And in Estonia both the reform-minded official leadership and the unofficial Popular Front recorded convincing victories.
The Baltic sweep opens up the prospect of even more significant victories by pro-autonomy candidates in this fall's election for republic parliaments.
At a press conference yesterday afternoon, Yeltsin returned to his idea of a group of like-minded deputies in the new parliament. During his election campaign, he spoke of forming a ``left-revolutionary bloc'' in the new legislature. This, he said, would consist of about one third of the new standing body's 450 members. And, in what appeared to be a direct challenge to Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, he called at the press conference for congress members themselves to choose the standing legislature.
Mr. Gorbachev said Sunday that the new permanent body would be selected by rotation - suggesting that each of the 2,250 congress members would be given the chance to work in it for a year at a time. And last week, one of the party's 100 nominees to the new body admitted that he did not know how the new body would be selected.
Reports from the Urals - especially Sverdlovsk, where Yeltsin was party chief from 1976-85 - indicate that he may be able to recruit members of his bloc from the new deputies there. Sverdlovsk and Yeltsin's home area of Perm together will provide 19 deputies. The results from these areas were not known Monday. Soundings in other parts of the Russian heartland indicate that Yeltsin is gathering support.
Yeltsin also mentioned yesterday a number of radically-minded candidates from Moscow who, if elected, might join his bloc. In the last days of the campaign, activists of Moscow's Popular Front - a pale imitation of its Baltic counterparts in terms of numbers, but equally radically-minded - were working hard to elect candidates on Yeltsin's coat-tails.
But how long an alliance between Yeltsin and radical reformers could last is open to question. The groundswell seems to be far more anti-bureaucrat than pro-reform, and many of Yeltsin's instincts seem to tend toward authoritarian reform. One prominent reformer who abstained from Sunday's election warned: ``The more I see of Yeltsin, the more I see a supporter of the strong hand [in political leadership]. He is not a progressive.'' And, the reformer warned, Yeltsin seemed to be preparing at some point to challenge Mr. Gorbachev for power.
Some of the first results to reach Moscow, from the small but economically advanced Baltic republics, were not good for the central party leadership. But the success of official leaders in Estonia will make this republic crucial as a channel of communication between Moscow and the Baltic republics in the coming tense months. On the other hand, a partial list of defeated officials in Lithuania included the republic's president, prime minister, two deputy premiers, senior party officals, and the mayors of the republic's two main cities.
In Latvia, officials backed by the Popular Front did well, a senior government official reported. Latvia's President, Anatoly Gorbunov, for example, won handily. But party chief Janis Vagris, who does not enjoy the Popular Front's favor, scraped by with 51.4 percent of the vote.
In another potentially significant result, the commander of the Baltic military district, Lt. Gen. Fyodor Kuzmin, running unopposed, reportedly obtained only 55 percent of the vote. Activists from independent organizations had called on voters in the district to cross the general's name off the ballot.
Elections for republic-level parliaments will be held throughout the Soviet Union this fall. Like the new national parliament, local legislatures will have increased authority. The Lithuanian communist leadership, speaking of the danger that a new Sajudis-dominated parliament in their republic might vote to secede from the Soviet Union, recently hinted that these elections should be postponed.