Voters offered their first real choice in 70 years spurned top Communist and government officials in the Soviet Union's most populous regions in a stunning rejection of the status quo.
Moscow's mayor, its No. 2 Communist Party leader, five regional party chairmen in the Ukraine and the party chiefs in Leningrad and Kiev were all rejected Sunday in contested races for the new Congress of People's Deputies.In addition, a non-voting member of the ruling party Politburo, Yuri Solovyev, was defeated in Leningrad even though he had run unopposed, officials at the Central Election Commission in Moscow said.
Enough voters crossed Solovyev's name off the ballots to deny the regional party chief the required majority, forcing a runoff.
Rejection of the officials by voters does not sweep them from their jobs in the party or government apparatus. But it was a serious embarrassment that could weaken their power base and lead to replacement.
"There are officials in the Communist Party who now know that power is not a gift of nature. There has to be some accountability," a Western diplomat told reporters as results continued to trickle in from Sunday's poll.
Voters appeared to be expressing dissatisfaction with the inefficiency and mismanagement associated with an entrenched party elite that many see as resisting President Mikhail S. Gorbachev's efforts to reform Soviet society, end chronic food shortages and improve the quality of life.
Three other men who sit on the 20-member Politburo also were candidates Sunday. All ran unopposed and all won, election officials said. They included Vitaly I. Vorotnikov, the president of the Russian republic, who received 84 percent of the vote according to city officials in Voronezh, where he ran.
Final voter turnout figures were not available, but figures from individual cities indicated it was high.
The Communist Party newspaper Pravda said 89 percent of those eligible voted in the southern city of Krasnodar and 90.3 percent voted in the Ukrainian city of Kharkov.