SOVIET President Mikhail Gorbachev hit a bump on his road to unchallenged presidential authority yesterday. The president was clearly irritated when the results of the vote on his nominee for vice president, Communist Party functionary Gennady Yanayev was announced yesterday. Mr. Yanayev fell short of winning a simple majority of the members of the Congress of People's Deputies by 31 votes.
Mr. Gorbachev asked the congress to vote again for his nominee, arguing that only a quarter of the Congress - 583 - had voted against him. At press time, the Congress was voting again. Many delegates believed that Gorbachev would be successful a second time around. However, the first vote reflected clear disgruntlement with the choice of a man considered to be ``a typical apparatchik,'' as Latvian deputy Nikolai Neilands put it.
``He is not good enough to become vice president of the Soviet Union,'' Mr. Neilands said. ``His career and his background are typical of many politicians who became politicians during the time of [former President Leonid] Brezhnev.''
Mr. Yanayev's nomination followed passage by the congress of a package of laws expanding the powers of the Soviet president. The laws included creation of a presidential Cabinet, removing the current Cabinet from under the authority of the parliament and making it directly responsible to the president. It also creates a number of institutions under the president's control.
Initial silence and obvious hostility from a large portion of the Congress of People's Deputies greeted Yanayev's nomination. He disappointed many constituencies represented in the Congress. By appointing a Russian, Gorbachev failed to reach out to the non-Russian speaking republics. Many people had expected that he would name a Central Asian leader as a gesture for those seeking a greater republican role.
Yanayev, as a Communist Party stalwart, clearly let down those who wanted a vice president who would be a bridge between the Communist Party and the mainly liberal opposition. Such liberal leaders as Leningrad Mayor Anatoly Sobchak have been rumored as possible vice presidential choices.
Finally, Yanayev shows little evidence of support for radical economic reforms, which many people feel are urgently needed. Instead, he has been a senior functionary of the official trade union movement, which has been a bastion of conservative opposition to radical reform, on the grounds that it would bring unemployment and worsen social conditions.
Perhaps the more significant challenge to Gorbachev's power is coming from the Russian government, led by Boris Yeltsin. On Wednesday, the Russian parliament finalized a budget for 1991, which reportedly reduces its allocations to the central budget from 119 billion rubles ($74 billion) to 29 billion rubles ($18 billion at the commercial rate of exchange).
Gorbachev and the Soviet finance minister told the Congress yesterday that attempts to reach an agreement on the 1991 budget between the republican governments and the central government had failed because of the Russian Republic's position. Gorbachev had met with the republican leaders on Tuesday night in an attempt to reach an agreement on economic ties between the republics, including not only the budget but the supply of food and other products.
The republican leaders have repeatedly stressed that they want full control over all the resources within their territories and over the flow of money from the republics to the central administration. Many republican governments feel that money is flowing to Moscow and disappearing there.
Mr. Yeltsin himself faced a setback with the resignation of Boris Fyodorov, Russia's reformist finance minister. In stepping down, Mr. Fyodorov said that no progress was being made toward creation of a market system.