By Alexander Shishlov
Preparing an official visit of the Yabloko party to Strasbourg, Alexander Shishlov, Member of Yabloko Bureau and Vice-Chairman of the Liberal Group in 1996-2003, addressed the ALDE in April. Long-standing partners of the ALDE, the Yabloko party, represented by the current and former chairmen, Sergei Mitrokhin and Grigory Yavlinsky, and Alexander Shishlov should attend the autumn session of the group. This article, signed by Mr Shishlov, presents an introductory overview of the state of liberal ideas and institutions in today’s Russia.
The European Union has just seen another election. However, in Russia elections have been steadily loosing their meaning with every new campaign since 1996. Today - in the absence of independent court, independent mass media, and independent campaign fundraising - the very basis of free and fair elections in Russia has been ruined. Often the government has been simply neglecting the law. It has turned into a common practice, for example, to announce that the signatures required for registration in the campaign are fraudulent, thus barring opposition candidates from the election (in spite of the fact that the voters personally confirm the authenticity of their signatures) or even fake election protocols.
The most recent is the case of Boris Vishnevsky, member of the Yabloko party Bureau and a well known columnist from the oppositional Novaya Gazeta, who ran at the municipal election in St. Petersburg in March 2009. The results of the election had been falsified which was confirmed even by the State Prosecutor and the court, however, in this case, like in many other cases, the true results of the voting were not restored. Such bold violations and impunity of their organizers and perpetrators result in public disappointment in elections and growth of extremism.
The Party of Liberals
Despite these circumstances Yabloko continues its activities - protects human rights (also via picketing and rallies), develops political initiatives on the key issues (e.g. Yabloko’s programme for overcoming Stalinism and bolshevism as a precondition for political and economic modernization of Russia is one of the most important here). Just a couple of weeks ago Yabloko’s leaders met with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and handed him our proposals on anti-crisis measures. As to Russia’s foreign policy, Yabloko finds it necessary to correct it encouraging the European orientation of our country. We are certain that it would also be for the benefit of Europe to have a democratic and predictable Russia sharing the same humanistic values as the European Union.
Yabloko maintains its intellectual and organizational potential, having about 60 000 official members and a developed all-Russia network of local organizations. In contrast to loud but not very promising projects that emerge from time to time accompanied by massive PR campaigns, Yabloko since its creation in 1993 has been conducting a real day-to-day work for the sake of political consolidation of Russian democrats. Activists of many NGOs joined Yabloko in the recent years, and today our party has six factions: the Green, Gender, Youth, Social Democratic, Human Rights and Soldiers’ Mothers factions.
Standing Together for Liberal Values
My foreign liberal friends often ask me how they can help to Russian liberals and Yabloko. The answer is simple: the fight for spreading liberal values in Russia is our Russian task. Only the Russian citizens can build a law-governed state in Russia based on liberal values. But there are things we may do better together, and many issues from the CE agenda are among them.
Russia’s membership in the Council of Europe – the organization based on liberal values - is of special importance for us, Russian liberals. Admission of Russia into the Council of Europe facilitated considerable progress in putting our laws in line with the key European conventions, and thousands of Russian citizens found defence in the European Court. However, our political and law enforcement practices have been demonstrating an obvious backsliding on the Council of Europe principles in the recent years. It should be also noted, that “pragmatism” and double standards sometimes take the lead in the Council of Europe too. We would like PACE to maintain its fidelity to the basic principles of the Council of Europe, and hope that monitoring over implementation of the member states’ obligations as well as election observation missions would not turn into a simple formality – all this refers not only to Russia. And here we rely on the energy of the ALDE Group and its adherence to liberal values.
The original at http://www.alde-pace.org/_uploads/1246620785_NEWSLETTER3_2009.pdf
Parliamentary Assembly Council of Europe
YABLOKO and the European Liberal Family