| Question: Grigory Alexeevich, it is widely
believed in the political elite that YABLOKO is an authoritarian party
with a tough structure, where any word from the leader is considered the
final truth. What is your reaction?
Yavlinsky: I don't think so. But you'd better ask my
Question: Some ex-members of YABLOKO make this claim.
Yavlinsky: I try to make sure that my opinion is always
grounded on the point of view of those whom I address. Often I manage
to persuade people that I am right. And if I fail, I have to accept their
point of view.
Question: Can a party be considered truly democratic and
independent when 90% of its funding comes from a single source?
Yavlinsky: It certainly can. The YABLOKO faction in
the Duma has always voted as it thought fit. Simply analyse the results
of all the Duma votings for the past 10 years. You will not find the influence
of the "[financial] source".
We do have a major sponsor - several owners of YUKOS. Their donations
constitute a substantial part of the party budget. But this is the problem
of the political structure of the country in general, rather that that
Independent, prosperous medium-sized businesses that could become partners
in politics have not emerged in Russia yet. Everything is tied to large-scale
oligarchic structures. The oligarchs were so scared after 2000 that they
didn't want to have anything to do with politics. Afterwards, either they
themselves or the Kremlin decided who would sponsor whom.
Clearly such a situation cannot be called normal. There is a radical
solution to the problem. Let parties get money officially, from the corresponding
funds. For example, proceeding from 60 roubles per this party voter a
year. That's how things are done, say, in Germany. This would remove all
the questions about sponsors at once.
Question: But how did Boris Nemtsov manage to find two dozen
large sponsors while you only found only one?
Yavlinsky: The Union of Right-Wing Forces (SPS) is
a party of large-scale oligarchic capital and protects its interests.
While we defend any honest business, including big business. Most importantly
YABLOKO is a party for the people, rather than business. By the way, there
is a big difference between business and economics. Business is the ability
to make money. And economics is a science on how to create the well-being
of a country. Certainly it is impossible to achieve prosperity without
business. Moreover, the task of economics is to create the most favourable
conditions for the development of business. And parties should focus on
the economy, rather than business. Unfortunately one can engage in business
without any public benefit. But this is another type of work that can
be compared with the "werewolves" case.
Question: You reiterated that you were ready to assume responsibility
for leading the government. But does not it seem to you that the number
of votes obtained by your party is too small to apply for that?
Yavlinsky: As far as I know, no one has ever voted
for the present cabinet. We have a government which does not need to be
elected. It has only one "voter". And you know him well. And
the government reports only to him.
Question: So you propose replacing a government nobody elected
with one elected by a clear minority? Why are you so sure that you will
be able to manage the government? Where is the guarantee that the opposite
Yavlinsky: The mistakes of the present ministers are
obvious. They take the wrong steps, and life proves this at once. The
threats and possibilities for more reasonable and rational decision-making
is obvious.For example, we predicted the default of 1998 as early as 1993.
Or take the present developments at YUKOS. Since 1992 we have been warning
against semi-criminal methods of conducting privatisation, as the owners
could become the hostages of parties able to exploit documents during
this shady period Or take, for example, taxes. Since the mid-1990s we
have called on the government to cut taxes, asserting this would increase
budget revenues as entrepreneurs would come out into the open. We were
told that the budget would explode and that revenues would fall. Today
the tax rate has been cut. And who was right?
Regarding the guarantees you request: In one Georgian school Givy was
asked to the blackboard and was given a task, "Givy, can you prove
that all the angles of this triangle are equal?" He answered, "I
swear on my Mom's health!"
Question: It is commonly held that you consider yourself
the Messiah with a monopoly on the truth.
Yavlinsky: No, I don't drink that much.
Question: OK, do you often meet people who are cleverer
Yavlinsky: Fortunately very often. For example, my
wife is cleverer than I am.
Question: And besides your wife?
Yavlinsky: Many of my colleagues are better than me
in some aspects. For example, Sergei
Ivanenko predicts political scenarios and is more often right than
wrong.. Vladimir Lukin is
more experienced and wiser than me. Alexei
Arbatov knows the life of the army better than I do. I can continue
this list indefinitely.
Question: Don't you see some phenomenon here: all your sponsors
find themselves under pressure from the state sooner or later. There was
Vladimir Gusinsky's at one time. Now we have Khodorkovsky's case. Is not
this connected with you somehow?
Yavlinsky: No, I don't think so. Other citizens are
under pressure now as well. For example, the founder and ex-sponsor of
Unity Boris Berezovsky.
Question: How do you think it is possible to put an end
to the ongoing war between business and government?
Yavlinsky: Do you want a plan of action? The reason
behind the war between the state and business, the reason behind the total
readiness for a war can be traced back to the 1990s when the present owners
obtained property at times on unlawful and often on criminal grounds.
A system of semi-criminal oligarchic capitalism was created. It is impossible
to create a modern efficient economy in these circumstances. This system
must be totally dismantled. It is, however, constrained by two circumstances.
First, we cannot perform such a dismantling using repressive methods,
we must not frighten everyone, arrest, them and put them in prison. We
must not undermine trust in the new reforms and the investment climate
in Russia. The second restriction: an administrative revision of the results
of privatisation of the 1990s is inadmissible in principle. We can not
allow a bureaucrat in the government or in the Kremlin to command, "Now
stop all this! That' the end of your commanding over oil-fields. From
now on you take up command over grain fields. And you over aluminium.
And you will have to spend some time in prison. And then all of you will
Question: And where are the boundaries of this impossibility
of revising the privatisation results? Now oligarchs are scaring us that
absolutely all privatisation deals of the past decade contain violations.
They say: they would begin with us and then will take most of your flats
from you, which unlike factories, were privatised lawfully.
Yavlinsky: You are absolutely right. The boundaries
are quite precise. Economic redistribution of property and assets on the
basis of free competition under free-market rules is both possible and
vitally necessary. That is why we need truly tough anti-monopoly legislation
to establish free competition. Then the owners will be changed automatically.
And I will not tell you what will be in store for the country if the outcome
of privatization is revised by administrative methods .I'm not the new
Hitchhock or scriptwriter of horror movies.
We propose adopting a law that will legitimize the results of privatization
of the 1990s once and for all, all the capital made then. I also think
that there should be an amnesty for criminal cases from the 1990s including
economic crime but excluding murders, violence and other grave crimes
against an individual.
Simultaneously the rules of businesses' participation in politics have
to be drawn up. They may even be tough for the initial period. We need
laws protecting parliament, the government, presidential administration,
and all other political structures from businesses interference.
Public television should be created and the financing of this TV by
oligarchic structures should be banned. Finally, we should separate between
sponsorship of political parties and direct links with businesses.
Question: I am ready to make a forecast on what your plan
will bring about in reality if implemented. First oligarchs will get their
amnesty. And then we shall find out again that in Russia the toughness
of laws is compensated by the fact that they do not have to be implemented.
Yavlinsky: You should not think that you can fool everybody
all the time. The amnesty may be abolished if other measures protecting
the political authorities from corruption and oligarchs' arbitrary rule
are not adopted. We have to draw a line under all this and finally start
serious work. Alhough the authorities would be pleased to have a "library"
of personal files. If something goes wrong - they open a file and start
Question: Grigory Alexeevich, are you an opposition? Your
competitors say that you go to the Kremlin for instructions...
Yavlinsky: We speak about many things with the Kremlin.
Sometimes, our proposals are considered - reduction of the income tax
and introduction of a flat scale, visa-free regime with Europe creation
of joint Russian-European missile defence system... Sometimes, we fail
to reach an understanding – as in the case of nuclear waste imports,
or laws on alternative civil service [instead of army conscription], citizenship,
a professional army... As for the opposition, the opposition wants to
gain power to change life. We will do that when we win the election.
It is impossible to create a real, "classical" opposition
in Russia now. We do not have independent court in Russia. All the national
media are in the hands of the government, and do not reflect public opinion
at all. Elections are controlled and managed by the federal government
and the local authorities. There is no civil control over secret services
and law enforcement agencies. The law enforcement system is corrupt and
has been transformed into an instrument of revenge and the grabbing of
property. The artificiall- formed parliamentary majority is kept by the
Question: What in your opinion is Putin doing wrong? Do
you agree with the opinion that Russia is on its way to stagnation again?
Yavlinsky: Everything is much more serious than stagnation.
Our present political system is capitalism where the key components, the
main structures do not function. That is why the authorities fail to reach
their goals even when they want to.
YABLOKO and Putin hold different opinion on the army reform. We are
for civil control over secret services, which we don't have now. We assess
the situation in the Northern Caucasus differently and we have other serious
Question: Could you speak about the Northern Caucasus in
more detail? The election of Kadyrov is one of the most painful issues.
Yavlinsky: Most of our voters are waiting for the [presidential]
election [in Chechnya] with concern and alarm. We consider this election
only as some intermediate variant. If this will push us at least half
a step towards peace - this will be very good.
Question: Many people think that Yavlinsky
is a brilliant speaker and critic, but he is absolutely incapable of real
work. He assumes a convenient stance: I am not allowed to implement my
plans in the top state position, therefore I am deprived of the change
to change anything.
Yavlinsky: My practical work is represented by the
legislation which we have been developing for ten years. You can easily
check what our faction has achieved in terms of legislation during this
period. The legislation on the production-sharing agreement in Sakhalin
yielded the budget USD 3 billion this year along! Over ten years the Sakhalin-2
project should bring in USD 10 billion.
Let me get back to your question: I worked in the government and the
Council of Ministers of the USSR for eight years and was Deputy Chairman
of the Council of Ministers. I admittedly refused to work for a government,
if I disapproved of its policies in principle: a government which depreciated
bank deposits, began and lost a war, made a default, a government which
lets people freeze in their flats in winter. If the policies of the government
change, we are ready to start actively working there with it.
Question: You are right when you say that previous Russian
governments, as well as the present Cabinet, made many mistakes. But they
at least tried to do something - in the harshest economic conditions and
often confronted by a hostile parliament. You merely criticised and demanded
the creation of something perfect.
Yavlinsky: If they had listened to the criticism, they
would have made fewer mistakes. In addition, it is often the case that
"mistakes" of our government are profitable to their own pockets.
Clearly the economy is not some "new page" which can you rewrite
in whichever way you want. At the same time it is not a railway, where
a steam engine cannot change course by more than one centimetre. The economy
always offers freedom in decision-making. In almost every case it is possible
to take the most effective and professional decision.
If we come back to a starting position, we wanted to achieve only one
thing: not to be used as a decoration, so that they would not be able to steal up behind our
back and make us steal together with them.
Do you know the difference between me and my opponents? They say in
each difficult case that a leg should be amputated immediately, whereas
I believe that the wound should be treated first.
Question: In one interview you said that clever people are
invited to join the government, provided that they agree that two plus
two equals six. Previously it was 28, and now it is only six, which is
much better. However, you assert that two plus two can only be four. However,
politics is the art of the possible.
Yavlinsky: There are two points of view. I think that
politics represents a desire to achieve the impossible, and only then
can we determine what is possible.
"Politics as the art of the possible" is an absolutely different
concept, which is both unproductive and inefficient. You are saying to
yourself that some things are impossible, as you don't want or don't know
how to achieve them. Imagine a doctor treating a patient in accordance
with your formulae! The development of the world’s health care system is
based on my formulae: doctors try to achieve the impossible in their fight
for patient's life.
Progress in health care can only be achieved in this way. The same holds
true for politics. Life will only improve, once politics seeks to achieve
difficult goals that are vital for society, but real.
Question: They say that you were offered the opportunity
to implement your project for housing and utilities sector reform on the
post as head of the State Committee for Construction (Gosstroi), but you
immediately turned it down?
Yavlinsky: There was no such an offer. By the way,
such a significant reform should be a priority for the entire government
and be the responsibility of the Prime Minister: Gosstroi can be only
an instrument of the work.
Question: There is such a notion in Russian politics - "the
eternal candidate". Everyone knows that Yavlinsky, Zyuganov, and
Zhyrinovsky will run for presidential elections, however, the candidate
from the party of the power will win anyway. Are you not tired of such
Yavlinsky: Certainly there is nothing pleasant in all
this, but it is an important part of the job. For example, you have been
writing about the same topic for many years. You have tried for many years
to find out the truth about the Kholodov case (Ed. Well-known journalist
Dmitri Kholodov was murdered in 1994, the murderers and people behind
the crime were never found), despite mockery from other people.
Once of the reasons for presidential elections is to demonstrate to
the elected president the percentage of citizens who support his views
and who hold other points of view. The elections demonstrate to the head
of the state how much attention he should pay to this or that position.
The results of his competitors who came second and third at presidential
elections seriously influence the policies in the country.
I continually state that two plus two is four: I do this, as I do not
believe that this will change.
Question: And what then?
Yavlinsky: Then we shall win the elections.
Yavlinsky: Willy Brandt ran for the post of president
for 21 years. The President of South Korea Kim Dae Jung struggled for
power for 25 years and Lincoln for 30 years. Sometimes you have to be
in opposition for a long time. You only make rapid progress during revolutions.
This is only right, if a politician seeking the top state position takes
a long journey to this post and has to go through many different stages.
It is worse if he is simply appointed president.
Question: Maybe you should pass one more stage then and
run for governor?
Yavlinsky: I am flattered to note your concerns over
my preparations for the post of president.
Question: Could you in one phrase describe your electorate?
Foe example, Nemtsov insists that it represents the urban intelligentsia
which failed to adapt to the reforms. Whereas the electorate of the SPS
managed to adapt to the situation.
Yavlinsky: It is a pity if someone defines the intelligentsia
as losers. This word has an absolutely different meaning in Russia. We
are the party of values. We are backed by people who have succeeded and
people who have not. However, they all put first moral, political and
We appreciate the fact that the Russian intelligentsia votes for us,
both individuals in dire straits and individuals who have succeeded. However,
recent polls tend to indicate that our electorate has broadened. It includes
people of the elder generation, specialists and highly-skilled workers.
Certainly, when we defend positions that are unpopular at the time, as
was the case in 1999 with the war in Chechnya, the number of our supporters
drops temporarily. But only will show who was right.
Question: Recently you said that 30-40% of your electorate
sympathise with Putin. Are those the new people or the nucleus? And what
is your attitude to this trend? For you and Putin are totally different
Yavlinsky: Our electorate is more critical of Putin
than the electorate of other parties. We have a very complex president.
But we are backed by the biggest proportion of independent-minded people
supporting different parties. Unlike the party of power, they back YABLOKO,
irrespective of the post of leader.