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Mikhail Gorbachev and his supporters have directed many dramatic changes in the Soviet political system over the past few years. The cumulative effect of these reforms is the transfer of governing authority from the Communist Part of the Soviet Union (CPSU) to constitutionally mandated executive and legislative branches of government. The first step in the transfer of power was the reorganization and democratization of the Soviet legislature. In March 1989, the Soviet people had their first opportunity in more than 70 years to send the delegates of their choice to Moscow as their legislative representatives. In the first quarter of 1990, Gorbachev oversaw two additional steps in the reorganization of the Soviet political system: the creation of the Executive Presidency and the Presidential Council. The establishment of the presidency and its council is important for several reasons: it strengthens Gorbachev's official position against possible Party threats to his claim as leader of the Soviet Union; it provides Gorbachev with a body of advisers and experts independent of the Central Committee; and it should allow Gorbachev to effectively formulate and implement his political and economic reforms. However, it is unclear whether the Presidential Council will have any real authority, since it remains in its initial stages of development.

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