Russian leader Boris Yeltsin came under withering criticism on Saturday from some of the republic's lawmakers, but his critics apparently lacked the votes to oust him.
Also Saturday, Russian Prime Minister Ivan Silayev unveiled a new set of economic reform proposals. The plan would privatize thousands of small state-owned businesses across the vast republic, even those going bankrupt, and let employees run them without state control.Yeltsin held his ground on the third day of a special session of the Russian Congress of People's Deputies, which was called to to hold a vote of no confidence in him.
But even though he headed off that vote, Yeltsin - the main political foe of President Mikhail Gorbachev - has been unable to win approval of a strong new Russian presidency, a post he has said he would seek.
"Today, the balance of forces in the parliament is equal, almost half against and half for Yeltsin," said Vladimir Lysenko, a parliament member and radical leader. "There will be longer and longer debates and a long struggle between democrats and conservatives, and we won't settle these issues during this Congress."
Svetlana Goryacheva, a lawmaker from the Soviet Far East, took the floor to defend a letter last month by six lawmakers demanding Yeltsin be ousted for saying on national television that Gorbachev should resign.
"He is mercilessly exploiting the faith and trust of the people," Goryacheva said. "Instead of realistic, practical work, what is happening today is a struggle for power. It's not democracy, it's the beginning of fascism."
Vladimir Isakov, a former Yeltsin deputy who had joined demands for a no-confidence vote, sharply criticized Yeltsin.
"A new dictatorship is under way, and to not speak of it is to commit a crime against the people and one's own conscience," said Isakov, who has introduced a highly critical report on Yeltsin's proposals for economic reform.
But Isakov also said Gorbachev should resign.
"I am not a supporter of the language of ultimatums, but perhaps Mikhail Gorbachev should really think about transferring the wheel into someone else's hands," he said.
Isakov said Yeltsin had violated the Soviet constitution by rejecting the country's structure as a federation. But Yeltsin, speaking to reporters, rejected the criticism.
Despite the attacks on Yeltsin, his hard-line critics, most of whom are Communist Party members, did not push ahead with a call for the no-confidence vote.
"It shows that the Communists are not confident, they are not ready for open confrontation and they understand that the population is not supporting them," Lysenko said.
The impasse likely would force lawmakers to try to schedule another special parliament session in May, after unpopular price increases take effect in April and a nationwide coal strike grows more damaging.
Coal miners in southern Siberia gave lawmakers notice they would continue their walkout because the Congress failed to consider their demands.
The economic proposals announced by Silayev would be extremely costly for the financially strained Russian government and appeared to be a political gamble to win workers' support in Russia's feud with hard-liners and the Kremlin.