The Soviet parliament granted President Mikhail Gorbachev special powers Monday to direct the country's key sectors but postponed a decision on how to transform the creaking economy into a market-based system.
The Supreme Soviet voted overwhelmingly to empower Gorbachev to issue decrees in virtually every aspect of economic and social life until March 31, 1992.Deputies from the Russian Federation, the country's largest republic headed by Boris Yeltsin, pledged to fight the extra powers. They said a conflict between Moscow and the 15 increasingly assertive Soviet republics was inevitable.
In an impassioned speech preceding the vote, Gorbachev urged deputies to grant him the additional powers to enable decisions to be taken quickly.
Repeatedly thumping the rostrum during his 10-minute address, he accused his opponents of raising unnecessary objections and bogging down discussion.
"Everyone is asking for more effective power, especially executive power," he said. "I ask you to be firm and decisive. I ask you to adopt this question and assure you that the powers delegated to me will be exercised with due responsibility."
Some deputies were worried about provoking conflict with the powerful Russian Federation, while others expressed concern about parliament's role being weakened.
"This is certain to lead to a conflict between the center and the republics, in particular with Russia," said Mikhail Bocharov, a senior Russian republican government official responsible for foreign economic relations.
"The formula deprives the Supreme Soviet of the right to control presidential decrees," said Anatoly Sobchak, the mayor of Leningrad.
But Gorbachev's vigorous intervention and a growing feeling after weeks of indecision that nothing would be decided unless the president took the reins appeared to sway many. Deputies voted 305 to 36 in favor, with 41 abstentions.
Within hours of the powers being granted, Gorbachev announced the retirement of the minister responsible for the chemical and oil processing industry, Nikolai Lemayev.
Earlier in Monday's session, deputies again delayed adoption of a specific blueprint for the transition to a market economy by ordering that two radically different plans be combined into one workable program to be presented to Parliament Oct. 15.
There seemed to be little hope, however, that a new commission would be able to satisfy either side by combining the two programs - a radical "500-day" plan developed by economist Stanislav Shatalin with the support of Gorbachev and Yeltsin and the conservative government plan of Premier Nikolai Ryzhkov.
There have been efforts to combine the two plans during the past month, but neither side has been satisfied and Yeltsin said the effort was like trying to mate "a hedgehog with a snake."