Several members of the Supreme Soviet Friday voted "no" for the first time to draft laws put forward by the executive Presidium. The laws to increase government control over public demonstrations still passed easily.
The break in the string of unanimous votes indicated President Mikhail Gorbachev has had some success in his drive to democratize Soviet society and encourage open debate.A total of 31 deputies voted against a decree by the body's executive council, the Presidium. The measure gives broad powers to paramilitary police to keep order at demonstrations. The number of votes in favor was 1,348, with 24 abstentions.
The Supreme Soviet's rubber-stamp practice also was broken on a second decree passed by the Presidium on July 28. It requires advance permission for public demonstrations and outlines fines and jail terms for violators. Thirteen deputies voted against the measure, 1,368 voted in favor and four abstained. Both votes were by a show of hands.
The two decrees were the subject of extensive coverage in the official Soviet press, with some articles saying they should be amended.
Activists complained that the paramilitary police, who have been breaking up demonstrations in Moscow and several other cities since the Presidium adopted the decrees, used brutal tactics.
The Supreme Soviet also unanimously adopted a $795 billion budget for 1989 after trimming a projected deficit of $58 billion to $55 billion.
Deputies cut the projected deficit, the first ever acknowledged by the Soviet leadership, by finding additional revenues.
The budget calls for most new investment to move from the traditional favorite, heavy industry, to improvements in the Soviet standard of living.
Soviet Finance Minister Boris Gostsev said Thursday the government has been running a deficit for years because of losses by state-owned businesses.
Deputies were told the deficit was caused by both inadequate revenues and unexpectedly high expenses. Specifically noted were a $65 billion tax shortfall since 1985 due to an anti-alcohol campaign and a $65 billion decline in revenues from oil sales, due to low world prices.