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First Legal Non-Communist Party Registered in Soviet Union

December 30, 1989

MOSCOW (AP) _ A political party that favors Lithuanian independence from the Soviet Union has been formally recognized by the republic, making it the first legal non- Communist party in the country, acvitists said Saturday.

The new party is the 2,000-member Party of Democrats of Lithuania, which advocates full autonomy for the Baltic republic of 3.7 million people, said Pyatrus Pechelunas, a member of the party presidium.

The party supports neither socialism nor capitalism but believes Lithuanians should choose an economic system after the republic achieves independence, he said from the Lithuanian capital, Vilnius.

Alternative political parties were illegal until early December, when the Lithuanian Parliament eliminated a section of the constitution guaranteeing the supremacy of the Communist Party and substituted a multiparty system for the small republic.

Non-Communist parties have cropped up elsewhere in the Soviet Union but remain illegal. Lithuania’s Baltic neighbors, Latvia and Estonia, are expected to vote in January on similar constitutional amendments permitting multiple political parties.

Also registered Friday was the independent Communist Party of Lithuania. A party congress voted 855-160 last week to break away from the Soviet Communist Party and support independence for the Baltic republic.

The registration of the two Lithuanian parties also was reported Saturday in the Moscow-based Sovietskaya Rossia newspaper.

The moves in Lithuanian have brought furious complaints from Kremlin leaders, who delegated President Mikhail S. Gorbachev, head of the Soviet Communist Party, to travel to Lithuania in the near future to discuss the controversy.

Meanwhile, conservative Communists formed a provisional leadership for a Communist Party that would remain an integral part of the Soviet one, Tass reported Saturday. The group opposes independence, said Vladislav Shved, a secretary of the ″provisional Central Committee,″ in an interview with the Defense Ministry newspaper Red Star.

The newspaper quoted Shved as saying the group hoped Gorbachev’s visit would swing wavering Communists back into the Kremlin’s embrace.

Gintautas Alksninis of Sajudis, the main Lithuanian activist group, estimated the pro-Moscow group has the support of approximately 20 percent of the 204,000 Communist Party members in Lithuania.

Alksninis, speaking by telephone from Vilnius, said numerous political parties are signing up members in Lithuania and they should be registered soon. The Social Democrats are the largest of the non-Communists, he said.

The first election pitting alternative parties in Lithuania will be the republic’s parliamentary election Feb. 24.

In the first election with multiple candidates in March, those backed by Sajudis trounced conservative Communists who had held positions of power for decades. Sajudis, as a broad-based pro-democracy group, includes members of various parties, including progressive Communists.

The growing independence of the Baltic nations and other Soviet republics presents Gorbachev with one of his most pressing problems. His advocacy of reform since taking power in 1985 helped fuel movements that toppled hard-line governments in Hungary, Poland, Czechoslovakia, Romania, East Germany and Bulgaria this year.

But Gorbachev, faced with the same sort of reform movements that he encouraged elsewhere, is trying to slow such nationalism to prevent the breakup of the Soviet Union.

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