Which Duma initiatives have been successful and which have failed?
What position do they adhere to on fundamental issues concerning
the country? What does the future hold for Russia's democratic
Yabloko party? Grigory Yavlinsky answers these and some other
Grigory Yavlinsky: First of all I would like to share
the results of our work in the current Duma. The figures are as
follows: about 20 laws prepared by deputies from our faction have
entered into force since the 1999 elections, and 24 more laws
are under review. We have also developed over 80 laws jointly
with other factions and deputies. As for the most principal directions
of our work, I can say that, first of all, this includes everything
related to the state budget and economic legislation. For the
third year running Yabloko has been proposing its own version
of the nation's budget. The difference between the government
budget and our draft budget for 2002 amounts to 130 billion roubles,
while last year this difference was 89 billion roubles. Interestingly,
on September 15 we submitted our draft budget to the government
and on September 24 it reconsidered its version and added 110
billion roubles. This had a significent influence on our attitude
toward the government and the entire budgetary process.
However, most interestingly we had been drafting a budget proceeding
from an oil price of $18.5 a barrel, while the government had
set a price of $23.5 into its version of the budget. When the
oil prices collapsed, the Finance Ministry had an opportunity
to avail itself of a ready-made model to review the budget. Later
on, in an appearance on TV Alexei Kudrin recited in detail how
the Finance Ministry opted for our draft budget.
We are also pleased that the protracted discussions with Russia's
economic establishment ended in our favour. Since 1994 we have
declared that the rate of the turnover tax should be fixed at
10%, as nobody would pay more. (...) Eventually, in the middle
of last summer Yabloko's economists met with Vladimir Putin and
had a long debate about this topic. A few other meetings followed.
As a result, the rate of the turnover tax was reduced to 13% and
budget revenues increased by 1.6 times.
We also note with satisfaction that the government has finally
signed a production-sharing agreement.
This can be summed up as follows: three parties - for instance,
a state, a region, and an investor - conclude an agreement, say,
for a hundred years, to share the production they either manufacture
or extract in three parts. If this is the case, exchange rate
fluctuations, changes to taxes or the situation on the world market
or other crises do not matter, as production is shared instead
Yabloko has been preparing the legislative basics s for this issue
since 1994. Stiff opposition from the oil barons has hampered
adoption of this legislation. However, we will get our way in
the end. (...) Military reform is the second significant direction
that we focus on. As far back as last year in the discussion of
the current budget, I provided figures to indicate the sources
of funding to resolve housing problems for servicemen and to switch
to a contract-based army... This year we once again proposed our
calculations. The matter once again concerns the establishment
of an army on a contractual basis, increasing expenditure on military
exercises, changing the structure of the Armed Forces, increasing
the role of the Strategic Rocket Forces, and creating up-to-date
mobile units. In our opinion, Russia's army must adhere to two
major guidelines. The first issue is connected with the nation's
strategic defense and it is impossible to overestimate the role
of Strategic Rocket Forces in this matter.
Secondly, Russia's Armed Forces must be capable of resolving three
armed conflicts at a time or else repel aggressions on the perimeters
of our borders, mainly in the south. I would not highlight the
remaining directions we are concerned about and that we must resolve,
as they are countless.
I would only like to dwell on imports of nuclear waste into Russia.
This is a principal position for us, and I am ready to uphold
it at any level and in any form. In our view, this is completely
unacceptable. Importing nuclear waste for storage is completely
unjustifiable. We have no grounds to doubt that Russia's scientists
can resolve this problem, but the embezzlement of public funds,
corruption and the general turmoil oblige us to insist on a reversal
of this decision.
To date, unfortunately, we have not managed to do so. Secondly,
we have failed in our goal of freeing rurban teachers from military
service. Only rural teachers enjoy this privilege today. However,
we did not manage to gain enough support to carry a corresponding
lawl through the Duma. Finally, the law On Pension Funds is our
third failure. We only fell short by 12 votes in favour that we
needed to defeat the government's concept. We had insisted that
the Pension Fund must be state-run, instead of semi-commercial,
as everything will be embezzled once again.
Question: Yabloko's congress has taken place. It was
decided to build a party. What will the party be like?
Yavlinsky: Primarily we have determined our ideology. (...)
We are a liberal-social party. In our opinion, this very ideology
is necessary for Russia today, as we need decisions related to
low tax rates, free enterprise, limits on state interference in
private life and business. At the same time, we should bear in
mind that we have multitudes of elderly, who have no means of
subsistence. We also lack a middle class that has accumulated
money and can either decide to work or not work. Therefore, we
must also retain free education and free basic health care. Subsequently,
we will have an unprecedented system of admitting people into
the party. We have abandoned Lenin's formulation that a party
member should work in one of the "primes." We want to
make sure that any applicant who has not been rejected can become
a party member. If he or she wants to participate in meetings,
however, and intends to become a party activist, he must be registered
by the local branch office.
Question: Does unification of four centrist Duma factions
and the construction of a party from Unity, Fatherland and All
Russia compel you to seek allies as well? However, in the
summer it was rumoured that Yabloko might merge with the Union
of Right-Wing Forces.
Yavlinsky: We have no outstanding problems with our roles
as drafters of legislation and we vote together with the Union
of Right-Wing Forces. But the problem is that at the moment, even
jointly with the Union of Right-Wing Forces we have fewer deputies
than we had in the previous Duma. Such a coalition is enough for
parliamentary work. We have a joint inter-factional council, where
we resolve all issues. However, there are laws, where we voted
differently to the Union of Right-Wing Forces. For instance, the
entire Yabloko faction opposed the import of nuclear waste, while
only 50 percent of the deputies of the Union of Right-Wing Forces
rejected this law. As for prospective coalitions, we invite everyone.
We have various views on reforms and different approaches than
those of the Union of Right-Wing Forces. We are a Russia's party
of democrats, while the URF is the party of the upper bourgeoisie.
Undoubtedly, if the upper bourgeoisie exists in Russia, it must
have its own political representation. However, the union of right-wing
forces only can win over the votes of the youths or, otherwise,
take them from us, displaying itself as a party for the middle
However, we have no intention of initiating any conflict with
the Union of Right-Wing Forces. I would like to stress once again
that they are a right-wing conservative party of big capital.
While Boris Nemtsov is a member of the party, there will be a
certain liberal-democratic vector in the party. If another co-chairman
- Chubais - heads the party tomorrow, it will be a pure party
of Gazprom, UES, Sibneft - that is exactly the big capital I referred
to. The situation within the Union of Right-Wing Forces is difficult,
as Russia's big business does not provide as many jobs as are
required for the elections.
Question: Is Yabloko still opposed to the regime?
Yavlinsky: Yes, we represent a systematic opposition.
Regarding domestic politics, we think the policies that have been
implemented in Russia, should have been implemented differently.
We disagree with the ways in which the elections were carried
out, for instance, in Yakutia, Russia's Far East and Altai. We
also disagree with the media situation, when all TV broadcasting
companies are alike, and you are not shown on TV at all if you
do not meet with the President. We disagree with the continual
postponement of military reforms. We disagree with the retention
of the current oligarchism. The majority of people are unaware
thus far what Gazprom or UES actually are. What are the people
afraid of now? They are afraid of the fact that a criminal case
can be instituted against everybody if necessary, the law-enforcement
agencies are being used as a club. This system has been acquiring
deeper and deeper roots and is being transformed into a regime.
This is a police system, where one bureaucrat controls another,
who, in his own turn, controls another one and so on.
Question: An eternal question: who benefits from such
Yavlinsky: This benefits a very small group of people,
who can under such circumstances share and re-share the riches
at any scale. The incident with Borodin in the US made many people
think more deeply and come to realise that they have nowhere to
go, as a matter of fact: they are attainable everywhere. This
means that an order must be established, which enables them to
stay in Russia, which means making 140 million people obedient
and subjugated to their whims and desires and everything will
continue as it does today. Under the present circumstances we,
a party of opposition, will do our best to impede the processes
of manipulating social consciousness, and do everything we can
to prevent them. In the long run, this mirrors the education,
the culture, the people's consciousness as to the prospects of
the country. This is a matter of principle for us.
Question: Does President Putin have something Yabloko
Yavlinsky: We support the President's foreign policy. We
support the course he has taken since September 11 and consider
it to be the only correct course to protect Russia's nationality.
The President had to pluck up all his courage to take this course.
Question: Do you think that Russia is rushing to gain
admission to the WTO?
Yavlinsky: I have never seen any predictions about the
consequences of Russia's accession to the WTO, no matter how many
times I have been asked. The WTO has been made an ideological-political
flag. It is in fashion now and is considered a good form. If you
want to pass for a democrat, you must say that you dream of joining
the WTO. However, what are the consequences of this step for Russia?
What should be done for Russia. To date these questions remain
unanswered. Russia might receive all manner of positive dividends
from WTO accession, provided that the government paves the way
for this. the consequences might also be negative, if the government
fails to do so.
Question: What might happen?
Yavlinsky: Russia might actually lose a lot of jobs. Whether
we would have sub-branches of light industry or not - I do not
care; but I would really care if the people end up with no jobs
and no job opportunities. The danger of the situation is that
a considerable part of the population might find itself with no
sources of revenue at all.