Boris Yeltsin failed Friday to get lawmakers to support his proposal for debate on a powerful presidency for the Russian republic, one day after tens of thousands of people rallied in his support.
Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev had tried to stop the rally for his archrival by deploying 50,000 troops and police. But demonstrators - numbering 150,000 to 200,000 by one count - turned out to support the leader of the Russian republic anyway. There was no violence.Yeltsin's support was not so overwhelming Friday among his fellow lawmakers.
Yeltsin, chairman of the Russian Congress' smaller full-time legislature, could not get enough support from them for a discussion of his proposal to create a presidency for the republic.
The proposal needed 532 votes to pass and open the way for a constitutional amendment to create the post, but the vote was 456-447.
"The mass of the Congress is unprepared for constitutional amendments now," Vladimir Babichev, a delegate and Communist Party Central Committee member, told The Associated Press.
Russian voters overwhelmingly approved a referendum on March 17 for a popularly elected president. Yeltsin wants a popular vote, and he wants the president to have a strong hand in pushing radical economic reforms.
The Russian leader has said he wants the elections to be held in late April or early May and that he will run in them.
Russian Communists accept that a presidential post is needed but favor a go-slow approach. "I don't think it's necessary at this Congress," Russian Communist Party chief Ivan Polozkov told reporters.
Since the proposal failed to make the agenda, it probably will not be taken up by lawmakers until late spring, when the next Russian Congress is held.
Addressing the session, Yeltsin outlined a 10-point program for transferring power from the central government to the 15 Soviet republics clamoring for more autonomy or outright independence.
Yeltsin credited Gorbachev's perestroika policies for some achievements since its introduction six years ago but said his rival's reforms have run their course.
"The objective result of the six years shows that we did not experience restructuring, but rather with the final phase of stagnation," Yeltsin said in an allusion to the rule of the late Leonid Brezhnev.
"Today, we believe that in order to implement that (reform) program, we need to change the political power in the country," Yeltsin said. "This is a prerequisite for the success of economic reform. Every day and every hour brings fresh evidence that the existing political power structure cannot implement the reforms."
Yeltsin urged 10 key changes, including a "roundtable discussion" among all political forces in the country, renunciation of force to quash dissent, elimination of Communist Party cells in the KGB and army and creation of a true multiparty system and a free press.
No soldiers were seen on the streets Friday, but about two dozen military vehicles were parked near St. Basil's Cathedral in Red Square as the 1,000-member Russian Congress met for a second day in the Grand Kremlin Palace.