Boris N. Yeltsin was granted sweeping new powers Thursday as leader of the Soviet Union's biggest republic, escalating his confrontation with Soviet President Mikhail S. Gorbachev.
After heated debate, a special session of the Russian Congress of People's Deputies voted 588-292, with 23 abstentions, to adopt a resolution that broke an eight-day stalemate between reformers and conservatives.The compromise resolution gives Yeltsin power to rule by decree, with subsequent oversight by the Russian Federation's working legislature, the Supreme Soviet.
It also takes some powers away from the Congress, the legislature's larger parent body, and transfers them to the legislature.
In Thursday's vote, the Congress approved Yeltsin's new powers in principle. Details of the powers are now to be hammered out.
The new powers would be in effect until a constitutional amendment creating a new presidency is adopted.
Yeltsin and Gorbachev have clashed repeatedly, and the new powers given to the Russian leader are likely to increase the confrontation. Gorbachev now has the power to rule by decree on the national level.
Speaking to the Congress before the vote, Yeltsin said he needed the new powers "to lead the country out of crisis, to give Russia real sovereignty, to carry out a transition to the market economy, and to strengthen ties among ethnic groups."
His proposal to rule by decree drew immediate criticism from another member of the Russian congress' leadership, Svetlana Goryacheva, who accused him of trying to bolster his personal power.
Reformer Eduard A. Shevardnadze quit as foreign minister last year during debate over Gorbachev's decree request, saying the country was sliding toward dictatorship.
The decree power requested by Yeltsin, who chairs Russia's standing parliament, would fall short of that granted to Gorbachev last year by the national parliament.
Under Yeltsin's proposal, the Russian parliament would have the right to veto his economic or political decrees.
Gorbachev has used his decree powers to implement moderate economic reforms, though the decrees have not always been respected by the country's 15 sovereignty-minded republics.
Yeltsin has been pushing for a far more rapid shift from a centrally planned to a market system, and he wants extra powers to accelerate that process.
The special session of the congress, which opened a week ago, has been stalemated and postponed most major decisions until its next session scheduled for May.
Hard-line communists have been unable to gain a majority for a vote of no-confidence in Yeltsin.
And Yeltsin has been unable to persuade the Russian congress to amend the the republic's constitution so as to provide for direct elections to a strengthened presidency.
In his remarks, he stressed that the changes would be temporary.
He said that he, as chairman of the Russian Supreme Soviet legislature, would have extraordinary powers only until a Russian president could be elected.
Yeltsin on Wednesday rebuffed a second attempt by hard-line communists to hold a no-confidence vote. But he lost a round in his battle to persuade Gorbachev to form a coalition government.