Political maverick Boris Yeltsin quit the Soviet Communist Party Thursday, telling stunned delegates at a party conference that he wants to concentrate on his duties as Russian president.
Yeltsin, who had been ousted as Moscow party boss by Gorbachev only to make a comeback as president of the Russian republic, said he was leaving the party to focus on his government post.Yeltsin, who has called for President Mikhail Gorbachev to hasten the pace of reform, made his dramatic announcement at the 28th Communist Party Congress several hours after the release of official election results showing that Gorbachev's choice had been chosen to fill the party's No. 2 post.
Vladimir Ivashko, the former Ukrainian party chief, overwhelmingly defeated Politburo hard-liner Yegor Ligachev in the voting Wednesday evening, the results showed.
Ivashko won the deputy general secretary's post with 3,109 votes, while Ligachev received only 776 votes and a third candidate, Anatoly Dudarev, got 150.
The Congress also handed Gorbachev another victory, approving without changes the key provisions of new party rules that permit limited factional activity.
"I'm just for moving forward," Ivashkov told reporters after the outcome was announced. "I'm for moving forward fast. I see no way back. We have reached the point of no return."
Ligachev's candidacy was seen as a direct challenge to Gorbachev's authority by the archconservative who opposes many of the Soviet leader's reforms.
Ligachev was also left off an official party organization list of candidates for the Central Committee, and it is unlikely he will retain his seat on the Politburo.
But officials said 75 "at-large" candidates for the Central Committee would be nominated from the floor of the Congress, leaving open the possibility Ligachev could still be elected to the body.
Ligachev conceded defeat Thursday morning and called Ivashko "a man I deeply respect." He also indicated he would not try to keep his Politburo seat, saying, "There is no such need. I have done everything that is needed."
The results of Wednesday's vote gave Gorbachev another victory a day after the same conclave chose him as general secretary for five more years.
Ivashko is expected to be a trusted deputy to take on the burden of directly managing party affairs so Gorbachev can concentrate on his duties as Soviet president.
"The delegates had confidence in me," Ivashko said. "That is the only thing I can be congratulated for. I must now live up to this trust."
Ivashko said his three guideposts would be "brains, culture and responsibility."