A total of 110 members of the Communist Party Central Commitee resigned Tuesday in a move considered a major political victory for Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev.
The 110 members, more than one-third of the membership of the powerful Central Committee, signed a joint letter asking to be retired at a special one-day meeting of the body Tuesday, officials said. In the past, Central Committee members held their positions for life."It is a considerable political event for our country," Politburo member Vadim Medvedev told reporters at a special briefing. "It is a serious and important milestone in the cause of perestroika, which shows our party is steadfastly assessing its own work," he said.
Medvedev said 24 alternate members of the Central Commitee had been appointed and the other seats remained to be filled.
The 110 members who left the committee signed a joint statment "asking to resign because of reasons of health and other personal reasons," Medvedev said.
He added they also said in the letter that they understood the role of the party and the "need for perestroika (reform)" to go forward.
"Today's meeting was conducted in the spirit of self-criticism," Medvedev said. "There were many speeches and they were very frank and acute in the analysis of per-estroika."
The resignations came less than a week after some top members of the Communist Party were rejected by voters in the March 26 election for a new Parliament - the first time voters could choose among candidates in 70 years.
The resignations follow weeks of newspaper accounts of lack of progress in economic reform that has been generally blamed on bureaucrats and lack of new faces in leadership roles.
Western diplomats said they believed Gorbachev needed a purge of politicians of the old school to make his reform efforts credible because of the election results and the criticism of lack of economic progress.
There were no immediate changes announced in the Politburo.