| Grigory Yavlinsky
- leader of the Yabloko party, which is not represented in the new Duma
- will not take part in the presidential race. In this interview, the Yabloko
leader explains the reasons for his decision. Yavlinsky doesn't view this
as a disaster; he intends to try to preserve and strengthen his party,
looking ahead to the next elections.
Question: Why have you decided against running for president?
Grigory Yavlinsky: Because elections in Russia today
cannot be fair, cannot be open, and cannot be even relatively competitive,
in real terms.
Question: A number of media outlets reported that you were
invited to the Kremlin to discuss this with the presidential administration,
and you were urged to run. Did this happen?
Grigory Yavlinsky: I have not been to the Kremlin
to discuss this issue. Those reports are not true.
Question: Perhaps you're just afraid to run?
Grigory Yavlinsky: In the 1996 election, as well as
the 2000 election, I was up against rivals who were by no means weak,
and the question of ratings was urgent then as well. Therefore, the real
issue nowadays is this: if there is no independent judicial system, if
there are no independent national media outlets, if there are no independent
sources of funding, then taking part in elections becomes a purely decorative
exercise. In the circumstances, the election conditions themselves discredit
the idea of liberal democracy and Russia developing along the European
path - and that is the only reason why I would take part in elections.
This election is too much like a Potemkin village. What's more, there
is a technicality which is a recent development: the actual techniques
for collecting signatures when there is administrative
resistance. In the time available - given that it overlaps with the New
Year and Christmas holiday season - it's impossible to collect over 2
million signatures without the use of administrative resources.
Question: According to another theory, Yabloko has simply
run out of money - the money donated by YUKOS - and that's why you aren't
running for president.
Grigory Yavlinsky: That is not the issue. Funding
has indeed run out due to the force majeur situation, but the money had
nothing to do with the presidential election. But the point is that in
principle, Russia now has no independent sources of funding for political
activity. None. The business community is scared to death and fully under
the regime's control. You cannot raise campaign funding without the regime's
Question: The Yabloko congress has delegated representatives
to the Joint Democratic Council, as proposed by the Union of Right-Wing
Forces (SPS). Why bother doing this, if you haven't managed to agree to
field a single presidential candidate?
Grigory Yavlinsky: A dialogue with diverse democratic
forces remains essential. And our congress delegated some Yabloko representatives
to work in coalition with all democratic forces,
including the SPS. On the whole, we need to unite the democratic forces,
unite everyone who disagrees with the policies now being implemented in
Question: Some say the time of the right wing - that is,
the SPS and Yabloko - has passed; so it doesn't matter whether you form
a coalition or not. The December 7 vote is offered as proof
Grigory Yavlinsky: Those who say that don't understand
politics. Actually, Yabloko can only be described as "right-wing"
conditionally. We are democrats; Yabloko is a democratic party, not a
right-wing party. What's more, the elections showed that there are millions
of voters who even this time, even in the most difficult conditions, did
vote for the policies and values which are a matter of principle for us
and vital for Russia's future.
Question: The SPS will hold its congress in late January.
According to some reports, the SPS may decide to endorse Putin in the
presidential election. In that event, would coalition work continue, or
would you break off contacts with the SPS?
Grigory Yavlinsky: Let's not make guesses; let's wait
and see. If and when the SPS makes such a decision, then things will become
clear. In politics, you really need to talk with everyone,
all the time. Even though Yabloko holds different views on this issue,
as everyone knows.
Question: Many SPS activists have stated outright that
Yabloko lost the Duma elections - partially because "Yavlinsky was
incapable of reaching agreement." Was it possible to form a
coalition with the SPS before the Duma elections?
Grigory Yavlinsky: We stand by our previous point
of view. The matter you are asking about was impossible, and unnecessary.
Question: Aren't you afraid that if you stay out of the
presidential elections in March, that will mean the end of your career
as a public politician, and the end of your party?
Grigory Yavlinsky: No, I'm not afraid. Because it's
wrong to take part in decorative political measures.
Question: Some say you intend to move to London and travel
around the world - giving lectures at universities, for example.
Grigory Yavlinsky: They're wrong.
Question: In your view, who will be the other presidential
candidates, besides Vladimir Putin?
Grigory Yavlinsky: I don't know. Everything will become
clear a week to ten days from now.
Question: What are you planning to do now?
Grigory Yavlinsky: Live.
Question: What about in politics?
Grigory Yavlinsky: In politics - we need to preserve
and strengthen the party. In today's conditions, this is a major challenge.
It will be a very difficult task to preserve a democratic party and prepare
it for the next elections, given that the country has a one-party parliament,
no independent media, no independent judiciary, and no independent sources
State Duma elections
YABLOKO and SPS