Communist Party radical Boris Yeltsin, warning against a dangerous concentration of power in the hands of newly elected President Mikhail Gorbachev, called Wednesday for an annual plebiscite on his rule.
In a fiery speech to the Congress of People's Deputies broadcast live on Soviet television, Yeltsin blamed Gorbachev for failing to pull the country out of a growing economic crisis during his four years as leader."The Congress, constitution and the (Communist) party gave the head of state extremely wide powers." Yeltsin told members of the 2,250-seat Congress, who listened largely impassively to his speech which ran slightly over his allotted 15 minutes.
"There might appear a temptation to resolve our problems with forced methods so that, without noticing it, we might find ourselves again in a new authoritarian regime, a new dictatorship," he said.
"In 70 years we have not worked out a method of controlling the activities of the head of state and as one of the means of such a control, I propose an annual referendum of confidence in the chairman of the Supreme Soviet (the president)."
Yeltsin, likely to emerge as a leader of an informal opposition grouping in the new inner parliament, the Supreme Soviet, attacked the country's reformed political system, saying it still left too much power in the Communist Party.
"The Congress found itself the hostage of decisions adopted by the old Supreme Soviet," Yeltsin said. "The most important decisions are pre-determined."
The only solution, he said, was a wide-reaching reform of the Communist Party and its role, starting with the convening of an emergency party congress.
The party Congress, whose members should be elected in a multicandidate poll among members of grass-roots primary organizations, should in turn elect a new policy-making party central committee, Yeltsin said.
At the same time, a law should be passed urgently that would determine the limits to party decisions.
"We must determine the role and place of the party in society," he said. "Democratization of the party is lagging behind democratization of society. The party's authority among the masses is falling. Time is crucial. We can't wait."