day ago the leader of the Russian Democratic Party YABLOKO Grigory
Yavlinsky met representatives of the public political organisation
Youth Expert Council in St. Petersburg. A number of acute political problems,
as well the preparations for the State Duma election were discussed at
the meeting. After the meeting with the youth leaders Yavlinsky answered
questions from Rosbalt’s correspondent:
Question: Grigory Alexeevich, recently social scientists
released the following data: over 90% of pensioners participate in the
elections; whereas no more than 16-17% of the youth take part. Consequently,
all the electoral bodies in Russia are being formed by the elderly and
the young have virtually rejected the concept of elections. This situation
is far from normal. In your opinion, why has this happened and what can
be done to level out the playing field?
Yavlinsky: Young people should feel that they are being
treated as equals and are not being deceived. They can feel any lies immediately.
As there has been a lot of deceit in politics for a long time now, very
few young people take part.
All the Russian TV stations have been dumbing down their programmes,
consequently the programmes are devoid of any real content. When you hear
real news, you are able to draw your own conclusions. However, our TV
stations have been forcing their ideas down the viewers’ throats.
Only one person is constantly spoken and written about - even in pornographic
papers. Everybody can see what is going on and consequently everybody
is bored. The dumbing down and buffoonery of politics have let to absolute
Let me cite another reason for the scepticism about politics - young
people see how much their parents, teachers and professors are paid: They
don't respect such politics and are disinterested.
This situation has been deliberately created to make less and less people
engage actively in politics and lead more and more of the population to
readily accept decision-making on their behalf by third parties.
Today many contemporary and well-educated young people favour left-wing
radicals. Russia's economy is structured in such a way that young people
with a good technical background are not in demand. We have a raw materials-based
economy which does not require many well-educated and intelligent people.
And it does not need scholars at all. Teachers are paid kopeks, geography
experts, historians, archaeologists - a great number of specialties -
are not needed at all. The economy needs a small number of managers, accountants
and so-called businessmen. Consequently people turn to radical outfits.
Question: Grigory Alexeevich, this is a strange situation!
Several days ago we interviewed Alexander Voloshin (Ed. Head of the Presidential
Administration). He also said that the situation was complicated and had
developed in this way, because our state is not properly structured -
it is unable to do this and it is unable to do that: It was strange to
hear this comment from Voloshin. For more or less educated citizens believe
that Voloshin represents the state in many aspects. Now you, one of the
country’s political leaders, are telling us that young people do
not engage in politics because our politics are worthless. Who will change
this good-for-nothing state and worthless politics?
Yavlinsky: You. The young people: Or give us an opportunity
to form a faction in the Duma of two hundred people and then we shall
Question: The movement Yabloko Without Yavlinsky has been
gaining strength, and the mass media have disseminated information that
this movement was initiated by Chubais and Kokh, the SPS in short. Is
this really so?
Yavlinsky: It would certainly look that way.
Question: Don’t you want to respond by initiating
a movement UES Without Chubais?
Yavlinsky: We opposed, together with Presidential Aide
Andrei Illarionov, the reforms pushed through by Chubais -simply because
capitalization of UES has dropped six times recently and the company is
falling apart. However, I myself am making this statement and am not hiring
the homeless to do this for me.
Question: Why there has been no normal interaction between
the right-wing political parties - YABLOKO and the SPS? Why did you want
to cooperate first and then changed your mind?
Yavlinsky: There are a number of laws and political
issues that we are pushing through together. But there are also a number
of principled positions where we failed to reach agreement. For example,
in 1999 the SPS was saying that the Russian army was being revived in
Chechnya and war should be carried out until final victory. YABLOKO and
our voters could not agree with this situation (incidentally it is now
clear who was right at the time). A year later you had the closure of
the NTV television company. Alfred Kokh headed the team "on behalf
of Gazprom" which closed and destroyed NTV. Today Kokh represents
There are many differences between our parties in economic policy as
well: in our opinion the shares for loans auctions were a mistake and
that the government treasury bond pyramid was also a mistake. We think
that the default should have been prevented and that today’s reforms
of UES are wrong. We hold different views, these things happen.
Question: What do you think about introducing "natural
rental charges", an issue that has been discussed a lot recently?
Yavlinsky: This is sheer populism. We can speak about
adjusting profit margins and this can be debated. However, this issue
should not be used as a platform for political revenge. It is very dangerous.
Our calculations demonstrate that the state could receive an additional
USD 3-4 billion by introducing such rental charges. The current budget
comes to about USD 90 billion. Are these additional USD 3-4 billion worth
a political fight? In the end, rich people are the economic drivers. Ruining
them is the same as killing the hen that lays the golden eggs.
However, the gap between the thin band of very rich and large numbers
of very poor is absolutely inadmissible. A number of different mechanisms
can be applied to overcome this gap. For example, the wide-ranging development
of family business facing very low taxes, extensive development of small
and medium-sized businesses, also low taxes. YABLOKO has submitted corresponding
legislation to the Duma. Total withholdings should not exceed 25%. In
general e should seek to raise living standards rather than bring down
levels at the top. Have a look at the alternative YABLOKO draft budget
for the country [for 2004] on our web site. We have made specific proposals
on how to overcome the gap in living standards.
Question: There is another stumbling block: what do you
think about the privatization results - should they be revised?
Yavlinsky: Any administrative revision of privatisation
results - despite all the shortcomings of the privatisation process –
is inadmissible. Such property redistribution would be completely devoid
of any criteria. Consequently, only the names of the owners can be changed,
and not the system of relations between the authorities and business.
Everybody knows that there is a third party in addition to the state and
business. This group of interests is represented by individuals who believe
that they missed out on their share in the mid-1990s. These people are
trying to use their influence on President Putin to effect an administrative
redistribution of property.
Any such redistribution would lead to the most severe conflict with
the present owners and would undermine trust in any forms of property
and property rights in Russia for a long time to come.
Secondly, the dismantling of the system should not be repressive and
should not undermine trust in new reforms and the investment climate in
Russia. To re solve this problem I propose adopting a package of draft
laws consisting of three main components.
First of all, to rule out any possible speculation on the documents
during the time of troubles in the mid-1990s, laws should be adopted on
an amnesty for capital and a tax amnesty up to criminal charges, but not
for murders and crimes against individuals.
The second part of the package of draft laws refers to the regulation
of relations between business and the authorities, above all the need
to separate them. At present the financing of political parties has not
been transparent and business has made considerable efforts to corrupt
different decisions in parliament in the most direct and coarse forms.
Furthermore, the public sectors that are not backed by forces with such
financial resources for lobbying, end up in a very weak position in the
Consequently, we should adopt laws on the transparency of financing
of political parties and transparent lobbying in parliament. We also think
that this part of the package should also include the laws that would
create a basis for public independent television, which Russia does not
have yet. This would free the mass media of the constant overt and coarse
pressure by the oligarchs. Obviously it would also be useful to limit
via legislation any possible participation in politics by people who played
an active role in privatisation for a ten-year term.
The first and the second are mandatory conditions for starting long
work to demonopolise the Soviet and now Russian economy. It is also necessary
to adopt anti-monopoly laws and apply tough anti-monopoly regulations.
Naturally a strong and independent government is needed o implement these
We presume that implementation of all these measures that guarantee
property rights and protect the political authorities - the Duma, the
government and presidential structures - from aggressive pressure by the
oligarchs will be opposed by the third force that we mentioned earlier.
However, the demonopolisation of markets and public protection of the
independence of the judicial system would make it possible to gradually
transfer the violent fight using semi-criminal methods and the law enforcement
agencies as part of natural economic competition, which is so vital for
the Russian economy.
In our opinion the adoption of such a package of laws represents the
only alternative to an endless recurrence of the YUKOS case or to even
more serious conflicts and fights that will sporadically lead to serious
political and economic instability in Russia.
Question: Do you share the concerns of Pavlovsky over a
possible change in the President's course?
Yavlinsky: There is something in everything he says.
But no more than that. Pavlovsky himself participates in the developments
and works for certain people. As for the President - there is nothing
that can be done, he has to be supple. This is something that any leader
has to do. It is most important that the general line of progress is not
lost during such manoeuvring.
State Duma elections
YABLOKO and SPS
Privatisation in Russia