the autumn of 1988 the Soviet political scene entered the stage of
dramatic transformation. The formerly united camp of perestroika
supporters began to split, as groups emerged that demanded more
radical and far-reaching reform measures. Nascent radicalism
contained two strands, both of which spelled danger for Gorbachevís
policies. One strand was represented by national radicalism and was
directed by popular fronts set up in most of the Soviet republics.
They demanded greater autonomy for their republics and a reform of
the Soviet federative structure.
other strand was political and insisted on radicalizing and
deepening perestroikaís political, economic, and other reform
measures. The two strands developed side by side and even overlapped
in some of their demands, including the support of private
ownership, political pluralism, and a multiparty system, all of
which went beyond Gorbachevís original plans of democratization.
line with the decisions of the Nineteenth Party Conference on the
new electoral system, elections were held in March 1989 to the USSR
Congress of Peopleís Deputies. The new electoral law was not fully
democratic and represented a compromise designed to enable the party
to retain its overall influence: two-thirds of deputies were to be
elected by direct popular vote, while the remaining one-third was to
be elected by public organizations, including the Communist Party.
These undemocratic restrictions notwithstanding, for the first time
since 1917 the elections were held with genuine competition among
candidates. Electoral campaigning roused keen interest among many
sectors of the population in the outcome of the elections, resulting
in a massive turnout at balloting stations of 90 percent of eligible