MOSCOW — Soviet leader Mikhail S. Gorbachev said Sunday that some of his nation's economic and social problems will take 10 or 15 years to overcome but added that there is no time to lose in starting work on solutions.
On international issues, Gorbachev accused the West of failing to match its words with deeds on nuclear arms reduction in what he termed a "dearth of realistic politics."
The Kremlin chief made the remarks to Soviet citizens and foreign correspondents after he and his wife, Raisa, voted at a central Moscow polling station during nationwide local elections that offered some citizens a choice of more than one candidate in selected districts.
Most Run Unopposed
Gorbachev's aim to "democratize" the electoral system by offering voters a choice of candidates affected only about 100,000 of the 2.3 million seats nationwide on 52,000 local councils. The remaining seats were filled by unopposed candidates, most of them chosen by local Communist Party organizations. There was only one multi-candidate contest in the Moscow region.
The multi-candidate elections took place in newly enlarged districts set up especially for the "democratization" experiment. The experiment also changed election procedures to ensure a secret ballot.
Gorbachev said the Communist Party Central Committee will hold a plenum in a few days to discuss the economic troubles facing the country.
"A lot of problems have piled up," he told a group of voters. "It is difficult to get our flywheel started, but when this is done, there is no stopping it." He mentioned adequate housing, including a pledge to provide every family with its own apartment by the year 2000, as one of the long-term goals.
"Good order, organization and discipline are needed for the reorganization to yield concrete results in all areas sooner," he said.
However, Gorbachev rejected a recent published proposal to use unemployment as a disciplinary device in the Soviet Union, where the state says there are no jobless workers.
"This is unacceptable to us," he said with emphasis. "We are well aware of our weaknesses . . . but sight should not be lost of what socialism gave to everyone--the right to work, to education, free medical services, housing. These are real values for our society."
Addressing foreign correspondents, Gorbachev said the Soviet Union will continue to take steps to meet the West halfway and seek solutions that would ease tensions.
"The main thing is to clear the path to disarmament," he said. "There are quite a few words in the West but few specific reciprocal steps adequately responding to our proposals."
Gorbachev charged that political leaders in major capitalist countries, which he did not identify, were more concerned about public opinion than they were about ending the arms race.
"No words, no assurances can replace realistic policy," he added. "We believe that there is a dearth of realistic policy in the West today."
Soviet citizens went to the polls Sunday to choose members of city councils and judges of people's courts.