Mikhail Gorbachev told the Parliament Friday he needs broad executive powers to
guide the Soviet Union out of its economic crisis, but Prime Minister Nikolai Ryzhkov vowed to quit if Gorbachev gets his way.In a heated session Friday, the Parliament passed a state of the union resolution defining the situation in the country as worsening and giving Gorbachev two weeks to provide details of a reorganization plan that would put him in charge of all Soviet ministries and strip Ryzhkof of most of his authority.
"The situation in the country is deteriorating and is near critical," the state of the union resolution said. "Ethnic tensions are dangerously high and all government structures are crumbling."
Gorbachev told Parliament the changes are needed to bring the government out of its "paralysis" and to solve the crisis facing the country.
But Ryzhkov said the government restructuring would not help without real economic reforms, including the price increases he proposed last spring and which were rejected.
"You will construct a new executive power, but if you do not find a mechanism for action the market economy will not proceed," Ryzhkov said. "I thought and think now that the economy cannot develop further without price reforms. We are several years late."
Gorbachev told a news conference later he hoped the food situation will improve by January through a combination of Soviet initiative and emergency aid from the West.
"I am sure we will overcome, but it will not be easy," Gorbachev said.
Gorbachev said the reorganization plan would give him direct control over government ministries so he can take strong measures to solve the crisis. He said it is not inconsistent with his grand plan of perestroika and decentralization.
Gorbachev's proposal envisages a new post of vice president, a prime minister and Cabinet, but all positions of power would be subordinate to the president, and the prime minister would lose much authority.
"If the suggestions of the president are approved, the Council of Ministers and I, as its head, will automatically resign," Ryzhkov told the independent Soviet news agency Interfax.
Ryzhkov's resignation has been demanded by the powerful Russian republic leader Boris Yeltsin and others who blame him for slowing economic reforms and allowing the Soviet Union to slip into crisis after crisis, but Gorbachev had previously stood behind Ryzhkov.
Yeltsin has also opposed Gorbachev's plan for concentrating power under the president instead of allowing further decentralization.
Ryzhkov said the plan lacked detail and that he was surprised by Gorbachev's proposal, first made at a Parliament session last Saturday, to gather more power.
"The question of reorganization of the system of governing and the resignation of the government was discussed before, but we thought it would happen only after the new union treaty was completed; that is, when the ideas of the republics were defined precisely," Ryzhkov said. "The suggestions of the president last Saturday were quite unexpected for me."