MOSCOW, AUG. 24 -- The official Soviet newspaper Pravda proposed today that the terms of office served by Communist Party officials be limited and called for reforms to make Soviet lawmaking bodies and other official organs more democratic.
A procedure should be introduced "through which the stay of officials in their posts would be limited to a term fixed in advance," Pravda said.
Soviet officials are now appointed for unlimited terms and often serve for life or until they are promoted. As a result, Soviet and western critics have said, they tend to be less accountable to the public than are officials in democracies.
Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev is said to favor a mandatory retirement age for party officials at many levels, but today's Pravda article was the first indication that the controversial proposal is gaining support in the party.
In response to problems of inertia within the Soviet bureaucracy, Pravda also called for Moscow-based party officials to be subject to transfers to other regions.
To promote "direct democracy" throughout the Soviet Union, the paper proposed a nationwide public opinion polling system, live television coverage of meetings of government bodies and greater tolerance of minority views.
It said television should be used for call-in shows between government officials and the public.
The article also attacked the system within the Supreme Soviet, the country's highest legislative body, of unanimously passing resolutions -- a situation referred to in the West as "rubber-stamping."
By making the proposals, Pravda has signaled that there is broad support for them within the party leadership and that a major push for greater democratization of Soviet society and official organs is being prepared. "Either democratization or social inertia, this is how the party puts the question today," it said.
Western diplomats said the suggestions are by no means certain to become law, however. The fact that today's article was signed by one official -- Eduard Kuzmin, of the Supreme Soviet -- rather than appearing as a general editorial indicates that the ideas are being floated for broader discussion, they said.
Stressing that democracy is based on a more ethical approach to minority opinions, Pravda said, "It is important that the state and people associated through their work show patience toward differing, at times erroneous, points of view and that they guarantee protection of people who appear to be in the minority."