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By Irina Gruba

Grigory Yavlinsky: the Government needs a democratic opposition

Krasnodarskie Izvestia, November 11, 2001

Question: It seems that during work on the federal budget the federal government has tended to leave less money for regional budgets than it did last year. Which side are you on in this dispute?

Yavlinsky: I'm on the side of the regions. I advocate reducing the political power of governors and increasing their economic might. The government should not produce regional barons. Instead it should provide governors with sufficient economic leverage to ensure a normal life in the regions. I think that the ratio between the regional and federal budgets should be 50:50. For example, your Governor Alexander Tkachev (Governor of Krasnodar Territory - translator's note) knows better what to do with the money. He is able to distribute the money more effectively. It is better to give him the necessary money immediately than send it to Moscow first and then try to get it back.

Recently the Land Code was adopted. Politicians in Krasnodar Territory are absolutely against. Then how should the land relations be regulated here? In my opinion it is necessary to stick to a compromise: the federal centre should grant the regions the right to freely trade in land and the regional legislative assemblies should decide whether they need to use this right and to what extent they need it.

Question: Why are people leaving Yabloko?

Yavlinsky: Only five people have left Yabloko lately: one in Khabarovsk and four former state administrators in Moscow. At the same time the party has attracted 6,000 new members. Everybody knows that divorces sometimes happen in families. We have to accept such facts with regret, but stoically. I think this is a normal democratic process.

Question: Yabloko is thought by many analysts to be ideologically far from the common people. What do you intend to do to bring your ideology closer to them?

Yavlinsky: For the past ten years we have learnt to speak so understandably that we will be understood in any village.

However, everybody knows that the first and second TV channels form public opinion in Russia. And it has been officially decided there that Yabloko should not have any access to the TV screen. Even in a programme about fruit and vegetable they avoid pronouncing the word "apple" (Yabloko means "apple" in Russian - translator's note) - they will say: "a green thing with pips inside." Unfortunately we still donít have any political freedom of speech. We have freedom of announcement. And there are problems with freedom after announcements.

Question: Soon the election campaign for the Krasnodar territorial legislative assembly will start. How does Yabloko intend to participate?

Yavlinsky: As actively as possible. We have a year left to prepare. We are expecting to score good results. The Chairman of the Krasnodar territorial department of Yabloko Murat Akhedjak has set up one of the largest and strongest organizations. We have influential rivals here: the Krasnodar branches of Fatherland and the Communist Party of the Russian Federation. However, we want residents of the territory to have a chance to vote for people with democratic views as well.

Question: What is your attitude to the merger between Luzhkov's Fatherland and the pro-presidential Unity party?

Yavlinsky: Yuri Luzhkov has noted that this alliance should not be regarded from a sexual point of view. From a political viewpoint these two parties are close relatives. And marriages between close relatives are not advisable.

Question: Do you know what is behind the developments surrounding Nikolai Aksenenko and Sergei Shoigu and their ministries?

Yavlinsky: Once Churchill was asked about his attitude toward the outcome of the Great French Revolution. Although a long time had elapsed, he still said, "I don't know."

I don't know whether it is s fight against corruption or a redistribution of property or maybe some revenge. I know that these people actively participated in the formation of the current government. Publication of some facts has coincided with some party congress. In general, this situation reminds me of Byzantium and its morals. But let us wait and see what happens next.

Question: Does the spectre of the former Russian president haunt the Kremlin like the ghost of Hamlet's father used to haunt Elsinore?

Yavlinsky: This ghost is not the spectre of Yeltsin proper. This is the ghost of the Politburo of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (KPSS). It may also be viewed as the ghost of Iosif Vissarionovich (Stalin - translator's note). We haven't defeated it completely yet. We still have a bureaucratic system, which makes it possible to catch anyone and declare him/her guilty. Unfortunately, Yeltsin failed to destroy this system.

Question: What do you perceive to be the main role of the democratic opposition?

Yavlinsky: You should not be afraid of opposition, as it strengthens the state. It is not dangerous for the government's fate. The democratic opposition sometimes slaps the government's face, but at the same time it protects the state against coups and undercover intrigues. Journalists should play the same role. You are the very people who ensure the countryís security. If you hide anything, as was the case after the Chernobyl disaster and before the 1998 default, people will be left defenceless. The mass media are also the media of mass security. This is the role that journalists should aspire to take.

Krasnodarskie Izvestia, November 11, 2001

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