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Our party is democratic and anti-oligarchic

Sergei Mitrokhin’s intrerview to Moskovsky Komsomolets

Mikhail Zubkov’s interview with Sergei Mitrokhin, YABLOKO’s leader.

Do we have elections in the country? Where does YABLOKO head?


Question: What is happening with YABLOKO, why has it not had any success either in the regional or the federal elections?

Sergei Mitrokhin: Do we have elections in our country? You remember October 2009 in Moscow. At the polling stations where Putin, Medvedev, and Luzhkov voted, YABLOKO got 15-17%. While in places where I voted with my family we got zero. Why? In the places where the bosses voted, no-one dared to falsify anything. Only islands for free elections remain today - due to oversights, because although we have an authoritarian regime it is not very tough. In places where we manage to ensure a fair count of the votes, we get what we are due. In Sebezhsky district in Pskov Oblast - 20.6% of the vote and second place after United Russia. In Kolchuginsky district Vladimir Oblast - more than 20%, second place after the LDPR (Liberal Democratic Party of Russia), but the head of our list was elected head of the district.

Question: There is one YABLOKO district head in the country. While Just Russia has hundreds of times more, although the party is 15 years your junior...

Mitrokhin: Yes, we find ourselves operating under different conditions! Just Russia is a Kremlin project. In the Kremlin test-tube, three parties were mixed together in order to produce one that was able to bite United Russia but would retain loyalty to the top figures in the state. And when necessary - carry out their orders. They have the administrative resources, votes are stuffed into the ballot boxes for them during the federal elections. I saw this myself in Arbatsky district in 2007.

Question: Can you give us more details?

Mitrokhin: I was alerted that there were falsifications at a polling station, and I went there. Just Russia member Samoshin was fighting the commission there. He would not let them draw up a report, he demanded that they check the authenticity of the ballot papers. I joined him. We held the fort. And he simply did not know that the "stuffing" was being done in support of his party. Mironov sent a prominent Just Russia member specially to see him. He took Samoshin to one side, hissing: "Have you gone mad? Let's get out of here, quickly!"

Question: But Mironov told me that it is to you that the regime sometimes gives the orders: to sling mud at Just Russia when it would be embarrassing for United Russia to do so...

Mitrokhin: We do not accept orders from the regime. And we are telling the honest truth about Just Russia. In a sense, they are more dishonest than United Russia. The latter states openly: we are the party of power. Or Right Cause - they state directly that they are a Kremlin project. And Just Russia is the same but they pose as the opposition. However, what kind of the opposition could, for example, vote for an extension of the presidential term?

Question: But let us return to your most recent election results. Are you not ashamed of them?

Mitrokhin: We are not ashamed of the results we got. When there was a tough authoritarian regime in the country - the regime destroyed the opposition. But the regime is more lenient now: it does not destroy the opposition, it humiliates it. Including by announcing poor results. Under the Soviet regime, the opposition's task was not to be afraid that it would be destroyed. While the task today is for it not to be afraid that it will be humiliated. Moreover, if we are being removed from the elections more than any other party that means they are afraid that even with all the falsifications we will obtain mandates.
Right Wing Who Are Left Wing

Question: Everyone is confused and cannot understand: are you a right-wing party or a left-wing party?

Mitrokhin: We are a centre-right social-liberal party. I will explain in simple terms what the difference is between us and the social democrats. In those countries where they have been in power for a long time, shops close strictly at six pm, for example, and people do not work at weekends. It is rigidly imposed on everyone: everybody has to rest in the evenings and at weekends. That is social democracy. But we say: you have the right to rest, but if you want to earn and work a bit more - go ahead. You have the right to extend your working day to earn the same holiday, but a better quality one - at a seaside resort. That is the socio-liberal ideology, our approach. Not to tell an economically active individual when he should go to bed but to create conditions for him to earn money voluntarily...

Question: But surely it was you who said before the elections to the Moscow City Duma that you were leftwing because your path had diverged with that of the rightwing...

Mitrokhin: I have never called myself leftwing. It is just that I am perhaps sick of the questions about us uniting with the Union of Rightwing Forces, and I was saying that we were leftwing in order to brush aside someone who was pestering me. After all, in our country the rightwing are closely associated with the people who helped the oligarchs to plunder the country, while YABLOKO opposed this. Although some people committed to social democratic values still remain in YABLOKO. And we have a faction of social democrats in the party.

Question: Perhaps people do not know much about your ideology because you hold few events?

Mitrokhin:We hold a lot of events but there are problems with them. The official media do not cover them. They are not allowed to. Unauthorized events are broken up. Recently, for example, an event by YABLOKO youth supporting the abolition of conscription was broken up. Question:But why are the Communists' rallies not broken up?

Mitrokhin: There are several types of protest voters. There is a huge mass of pensioners who are nostalgic about the Soviet Union. And a party is needed that meets their interests, on the one hand, and on the other hand - one that will hold them back from tough, uncontrollable social protest. That is the function of the Communists. There are nationalist voters, also a considerable number. A leader is needed to neutralize these voters to ensure that their protests do not turn into a tough attack on the government, as occurred at Manezhnaya. Zyuganov neutralizes the pensioners, Zhirinovsky neutralizes the nationalist protest voters. So they suit the regime. That is why Zyuganov is not replaceable. After all, if another person takes his place problems are possible. By the way, Zyuganov's rivals and people capable of real protest, and not an imitation of it, are expelled from the party or stamped on. In Moscow, for example, Rashkin was used to stamp on Ulas (Editor: Last May, the Presidium of the Communist Party of the Russian Federation Central Committee disbanded the Office of the Moscow organization, headed by Vladimir Ulas, who had attacked the Kremlin and did not want to cooperate with authorities, and he was replaced by the less intransigent Valeriy Rashkin). Nevertheless, despite all their shortcomings, there are only two parties left in Russia which are not Kremlin projects. And which might be called opposition parties. These are the Communists and us.

Question: Well then, please tell us about YABLOKO's function...

Mitrokhin: We are the democratic opposition. We were always in opposition to Yeltsin, and to his successors today - Putin and Medvedev. But we are not hysterical opposition figures, whose only aim is to curse the regime. Our function is to offer an alternative program for the country's development. And it is this that the other parties cannot do. We oppose the regime on all issues, we state openly that it is leading the country into an impasse, it is holding the country hostage. But if someone has taken hostages, then one way to save them is negotiations. So we are conducting a dialogue with the regime while not renouncing harsh criticism of it. The hysterical opposition condemns us for this, though they secretly run to the Kremlin and ask for registration permits for themselves. We do not fear their accusations, because we are conducting a dialogue rather than colluding. The difference between dialogue and collusion is very simple: the former does not imply a renunciation of your principles. Thanks to this dialogue, we remain within the legal realm, we have not been closed down yet.

Question: But what would you be shut down for? You do not have any members in the Duma, or in the regional legislative assemblies either. How do you represent a danger?

Mitrokhin: It is those they are not afraid of who they let into the Duma. And they are afraid of us and that is why we are removed from the elections more than anyone. Our percentage for removal from the elections is even the highest, according to data from the CEC (Central Electoral Commission) - 45%! This spring, we were removed in one region and in five cities. The danger we represent is that our deputies are trying to control public money in the Dumas at all levels and to expose theft by officials. They are submitting initiatives aimed at fighting corruption.

Question: Can you cite any examples of your influence?

Mitrokhin: In Moscow, we have stopped hundreds of infill developments, and we have prevented the construction of six new incinerators that were extremely harmful to health ... we managed to get regulations abolished under which citizens would have to pay for their heating and water meters to be "read". At a federal level, we drew up a package of federal laws on tariff transparency and handed it to Medvedev at the height of the crisis. What lies at the heart of it? At the moment, monopoly holders are protected by the law on commercial secrets. But we have suggested that they lose protection under this law and are obliged to publish financial data on official websites. Because transparency is the first condition required for tariff restraint. It is clear that no-one has submitted a package of laws in this form, but several government resolutions have been adopted, which have obliged monopoly holders to publish their expenditure. This is a huge step forward. We are fighting corruption...

Question: Everyone is fighting corruption now...

Mitrokhin: Everyone is just talking about it, but where is the fight itself? The organization Transparency International exists. It fights corruption worldwide. When the president issued a decree granting federal parties the right to make enquiries about the honesty of officials' income declarations, it appealed to all the parties. It asked them to make enquiries about a number of Duma deputies, starting with Gryzlov. They went round all the parties, but only YABLOKO made the enquiry. So you draw the conclusion about who is really fighting corruption, and who is just talking about it.

Question: And what answer were you given about the deputies?

Mitrokhin: This is how they answered: a decree is a decree, but it contains the word "officials", and deputies do not figure in it. Therefore, no-one can check them out. However, after this the Presidential Staff prepared a draft law on how to check up on deputies. They will check up on themselves: a commission will be created attached to each chamber. But nevertheless, this is better than nothing. And we have contributed to this being done. Which of the factions in the State Duma has ta ken even such a small step in the fight against corruption? We are now dealing with the officials' declarations. We have already made an enquiry regarding Krasnodar Governor Tkachyov.

"Our Image Has Been Spattered With Muck"

Question: What slogan will you be using for the federal campaign?

Mitrokhin: I will not give away our secrets. But we conducted the last campaign under the slogan "Government under the Control of the Citizens!" Although it has already been "borrowed" from us.

Question: Some political analysts say that you are trying to make advances towards the nationalists...

Mitrokhin: I considered it my duty to honour the memory of Yegor Sviridov on 15 January. The death of this fan caused a huge stir, first and foremost because of the corruption of the law-enforcement bodies. If I had refused to pay tribute to his memory just because the nationalists were exploiting it, I would have helped them to "privatize" this memory. And I would have made it clear to the fans that only the nationalists were concerned about their grief and that the democrats could not care less. Moreover, there was a real threat that the events on Manezhnaya could recur. If YABLOKO distanced itself from taking responsibility for organizing the fortieth day obituary then it would have been dealt with by people who at the very least would not set themselves the goal of preventing a pogrom. And if it were repeated, then I would definitely consider myself to be to blame for refusing the opportunity to keep the situation under control. We organized everything well and did not allow the funeral procession to develop into a nationalist march. There was not a single incident on these grounds either at the event itself or after it.

There were no campaign aims here. The only aim was to prevent bloodshed. And we achieved this. And after flowers were laid at the place where Yegor died, I condemned, in front of the media, the attempts by the nationalists to exploit his death. I think that this is how nationalism needs to be fought: not out to one side somewhere but face to face, on its own patch.

Question: Does YABLOKO have its own his unique identity or is the party just seeking one?

Mitrokhin: The uniqueness of our identity is that we are a party that is simultaneously democratic and anti-oligarchic. The problem with our identity that we now have to clean off the muck that has undeservedly been stuck to it.

Political forces such as the DVR (Democratic Choice of Russia), SPS (the Union of Right-Wing Forces), NDR (Our Home is Russia) etc have flung this muck at us. In the 1990s and in part during the first decade of this century as well, they called themselves Democrats and under this label covered up the oligarchs' carving up of the country. In so doing, they discredited the very notion of "democracy". Essentially, they deceived the citizens: instead of Western-style democracy, they constructed an African oligarchy.

We were the democrats who fought the oligarchy, condemned the policies of Yeltsin, Chubais and Yegor Gaidar, Chernomyrdin, Nemtsov and their parties. But because we were and still are democrats, this muck tarnished our image any way. According to the principle "either he stole or they stole from him". When Putin spoke at Luzhniki before the 2007 election and said that the democrats raged like a hurricane in the 1990s - this, unfortunately, dealt a blow to us as well. And we have to rub this muck off our faces.

So today we patiently explain to citizens that democracy is not to blame for our country's ills. Simply because we have never had it.

The politicians who constructed the oligarchy in Russia, under the guise of democracy, have today created a new party - Parnassus. Everyone asks why we do not unite with it. Our answer is very simple. We are completely different political forces to them. We are in favour of democracy without the oligarchs, while they are in favor democracy for the oligarchs.

If they want to unite with us - let them acknowledge responsibility for their previous policies. If we unite with them without this condition, then we will all be playing together the role of a fig leaf for those oligarchs who are trying to influence policy even today.

By the way, the leaders of Parnassus were not only the cover for the creation of an oligarchy, but also for the implementation of the "Successor" operation by it. Nemtsov entered the Duma as head of the SPS under the slogan "Putin for President, Kiriyenko for the Duma!". Kasyanov served Putin as prime minister for four years without any signs of opposition sentiment...

Yavlinsky Will Be Back

Question: Incidentally, Putin also talked about people scavenging like "jackals" at foreign embassies. Do you have relations with foreign countries?

Mitrokhin: We meet both ambassadors, and party delegations. We do not ask for any help from foreigners so the word "scavenging" does not apply to us. When I met the American president, I found it absurd to hear the chorus of people alongside me complaining to Uncle Sam about Russia. While I talked to them about the creation of joint Russian-European aircraft defence.

Yavlinsky proposed this idea at one time, first Yeltsin and then Putin took it from him...

In short, in this crowd of complainers we always talk about joint global projects belonging to Russia and America. I really do not understand: why complain about things to the Americans? Do they not know what is going on in our country? Or can they help in some way? In such company Yavlinsky met Biden, and the Communists began to complain that they were not being shown on television in Kemerovo. What kind of response were they expecting? That Biden would call Tuleyev and ask him to show them on television? It is disgraceful!

Question: How would you rate your chances in the December elections?

Mitrokhin: There are glitches in any system. A conflict at the top is probable, and it might operate in favor of honest elections. And then we will get 7%.

Question: And why not 50%, if the elections are honest? Why are your ambitions so modest?

Mitrokhin: There will still not be completely equal conditions for taking part in the elections. We have not appeared on the central television channels for a very long time. The law on equal access to the media was written for the parliamentary parties and not for us. So they have an advantage at the outset. Moreover, they do not need to collect signatures, but they force us do so. People are willing to sign, but they are afraid to provide their passport details. The collection of signatures is a monstrous task. The collectors have to be paid because it is very hard work. So we have to divert money from the election campaign. There is no more money left for articles in the media. We will collect these 150,000 signatures, though it is terribly hard. But the electoral commission will then get the command and will seize on every detail in order to declare them invalid.

Question: Why has Grigory Yavlinsky withdrawn into the shadows?

Mitrokhin: He is an active member of our team. In his time, he built a team, organized the collegial management of the party, and did not take a single key decision without consulting party members. The picture is the same now as well. We consult on all the issues, and Yavlinsky is actively involved in this.
Question: There is a rumour that he will take part in the presidential election...

Mitrokhin: We are considering the option of nominating our candidate for the election. I would not rule out this possibly being Yavlinsky. But it would be premature to talk about this now. A premature discussion of this topic would be like a dance without music. The music has not yet been switched on but someone is already partying. It looks strange. We have not yet taken any decision but t he discussion is underway.

Question: And who would be of more interest to you as the next president: Medvedev or Putin?

Mitrokhin: They are a tandem for me. In the tandem, each works with the other, whichever way they portray the conflicts. If you support one member of the tandem against the other, you are still supporting the tandem as a whole. So, it is very easy to make a forecast regarding the presidential election. The tandem will win it, and how its team takes up its positions is of no fundamental importance.

The tandem may also grow - a third party may appear. We have three Olympic symbols. First there was the bear, then a leopard was depicted, then a bunny rabbit also appeared. So a bunny rabbit might appear in the tandem. This does not change the essentials. The biggest problem is - what will happen to Russia after this victory? Keeping the same people in power for so long - we see in the Middle East what that leads to. After all, the Soviet Union collapsed not because of perestroika (it was not actually the first stage in the collapse), but because it was unable to avoid stagnation. And our current stagnation is very reminiscent of the s

See also:

YABLOKO and the parties of power

Regional Elections 2011





May 3, 2011

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