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Obvious discrepancy between words and deeds encourages indifference and crime

Grigory Yavlinsky's interview to the Kommersant newspaper
October 26, 2010

Grigory Yavlinsky, member of YABLOKOs Political Committee, Doctor of Economics, did not give to Kommersants correspondent Viktor Khamrayev the exact dates after which the collapse of the political system will become irreversible, although he considered such an option be quite realistic and offered preventive measures.

Kommersant: Why are all the democrats, including your party YABLOKO, have been constantly repeating that our political system is "an imitation of democracy." Is it because you are hurt: as democrats have been losing all the elections, this means that we have not a democracy, but its imitation?

Yavlinsky: They have been asking this question for fifteen years already. Do you think that it is possible to play being hurt for such a long period of time? I do not think people who say that twice two is four say so because they are offended. Millions of people are absolutely convinced that the elections are unfair. These are not only our ardent supporters (by the way, we have millions of supporters, even according to the official figures). Many people are losing their trust to the state and its institutions. But as many people still believe that we should participate in elections, at least for the fact that no one could say "well, you see, you yourself do not go, so its your fault, we have to participate. By the way, the October election day (Ed. regional elections in 77 Russian regions took place on October 10, 2010) showed us many signals that people had positive attitude to us, although we experienced great difficulties in the campaign and monitoring over the counting of the results.

Kommersant: Ok, but we still have elections in accordance with the law, right?

Yavlinsky: Yes, but it would be unspeakable if they cancel elections formally. But have a look at least at the data of official surveys: there are very few people who believe that elections are fair. This is one of the major reasons why people are seriously dissatisfied with the quality of life.

Kommersant: Yes. But we have parties still?

Yavlinsky: Yes, against all odds, there are many people who risking their well-being continue participating in social and political life. They want to change a lot, they know how to act within the law and categorically do not want to be guerrillas or revolutionaries. Such people think not about benefits and careers only, they also think about more important and long-term issues.

But this is not the party in power. The party in power is our very Russian phenomenon, survival by means of decades-long submission. Such a party either submits to the authorities itself or subordinates other people, including those who have been recently considered idols. That is why this party has been recently so sharply against election of governors.

Kommersant: I agree these are indirect elections, but still elections.

Yavlinsky: Elections can be only direct, on a competitive basis. Another issue is that the post of a governor implies much responsibility, so notorious populists and extremists should not get there. But this is an issue of a responsible and careful legislative activity. For example, it could be established that only political parties have the right to nominate candidates for the governor post who will run at elections. But these have to be all the parties, but not one party only.

Kommersant: But we have freedom of speech, and we have a sea of different press, including political ones.

Yavlinsky: The abundance of glamour and erotic editions does not mean that there is freedom of speech or freedom of the press in the country. Political discussions and public debate on key issues of national life are needed. Such discussions are a prerequisite for sustainable development of the state and its stability.

Kommersant: In general we have been developing more successfully without discussions for the past ten years than with unbridled debate during 1990s.

Yavlinsky: Do you seriously believe that world prices on oil and raw materials have grown because Russia got rid of political debates? The facade of success created by means of bureaucratic subordination is, as anyone knows, not what is actually required. It is impossible to stop discussions. Discussion of important issues is still going on. And it has an impact on what is happening even on such a level of virtually personal discussions. But if a public discussion could develop on a normal level of publicity and political culture, it would be far more useful. However, of course, not any one can reach a high level of culture.

Kommersant: So, this means that there should be restrictions so that not to let them go?

Yavlinsky: Hard to say ... Some people should be really not let into power. The state service should at least some day cease to be the source of the status rent for such people. Other things, not rent, should be of importance for them.

Kommersant: For example?

Yavlinsky: It is required, for example, to create the conditions for reduction of the brain drain. But this requires freedom of creative work, contacts, movement, and it is necessary to provide the necessary resources for this freedom. People should be provided with a minimum comfort in their every day living, they should have guarantees of personal safety and security in their creative activities. Science towns were built en masse in the Soviet Union, there were about dozen of them around Moscow. So what? Soviet science failed the competition even in its best days. Our scientists have been in many aspects better than in the West, but they were treated not as human beings, but as mechanisms that "will bring something to the country."

Or let us take the disintegration developments in the Northern Caucasus and the Far East. There we can completely lose the control at the first cut of budget expenditures on these regions due to a banal reduction of the state income, if it suddenly happens. And we should urgently consider this, until the reality has not come upon us, as during the forest fires. And we should take institutional actions where possible reducing manual control to the required minimum.

Kommersant: You mean that institutions will be effective?

Yavlinsky: It is necessary so that institutions would start functioning. First, at the local level, and then at the higher level. All of this will not begin functioning efficiently at once, but the direction of the movement should be chosen. Unfortunately, we do not have this now, despite all the talk. Moreover, the apparent discrepancy between words and deeds encourages indifference and crime. People have the feeling that they have passed the "point of no return."

Kommersant: In my opinion, the term "point of no return" is misplaced here. The Soviet political system seemed irreversible, but it was reformed nonetheless.

Yavlinsky: The point of no return" means that nothing can e corrected or amended anymore. And there is always time to collapse like the Soviet system. Strictly speaking, the Soviet system was not reformed, they simply built something on its ruins and that is why we have got what we have got. And we can approach the same situation once more if once again we cynically change nothing, as, for example, the present electoral system. In short, this means waiting until nationalists and populists get out on the vast Russias areas and fight against the people and each other.

Kommersant: And is there any way out of this vicious circle?

Yavlinsky: The ban on criticism of top officials, including president and prime minister, which we have in those media that are controlled by the state should be abolished without delay. Non-commercial civil association should get back their rights in full. Measures for ensuring an independent judiciary should be implemented. Representatives of business should be prohibited to get posts in the state civil service, and civil servants should be prohibited to get posts in the boards of directors of state companies. Businessmen should be given the right to openly and transparently finance political parties activities. Also the barrier for parties getting into the parliament and local representative bodies should be lowered and single-mandate two round elections should be introduced. And terms of office for elected officials should be reduced.

Kommersant: Who should do this and in what terms?

Yavlinsky: The authorities should begin this. Two or three years are enough for realization of such ideas and conducting modernisation in the medium term.

Kommersant: Any modernisation has been already postponed until after the presidential election of 2012.

Yavlinsky: Why do you think so? This is a matter of skill and political proficiency. Elections can help here. The matter is in personal and political responsibility.


See also:
Modernisation in Russia


October 26, 2010

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