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Rosbalt, September 25, 2003

Grigory Yavlinsky: Russian politics is deliberately being transformed into a farce

Interview with Grigory Yavlinsky by Tatyana Chesnokova

G.YavlinskySeveral day ago the leader of the Russian Democratic Party YABLOKO Grigory Yavlinsky met representatives of the public political organisation Youth Expert Council in St. Petersburg. A number of acute political problems, as well the preparations for the State Duma election were discussed at the meeting. After the meeting with the youth leaders Yavlinsky answered questions from Rosbalt’s correspondent:

Question: Grigory Alexeevich, recently social scientists released the following data: over 90% of pensioners participate in the elections; whereas no more than 16-17% of the youth take part. Consequently, all the electoral bodies in Russia are being formed by the elderly and the young have virtually rejected the concept of elections. This situation is far from normal. In your opinion, why has this happened and what can be done to level out the playing field?

Yavlinsky: Young people should feel that they are being treated as equals and are not being deceived. They can feel any lies immediately. As there has been a lot of deceit in politics for a long time now, very few young people take part.

All the Russian TV stations have been dumbing down their programmes, consequently the programmes are devoid of any real content. When you hear real news, you are able to draw your own conclusions. However, our TV stations have been forcing their ideas down the viewers’ throats. Only one person is constantly spoken and written about - even in pornographic papers. Everybody can see what is going on and consequently everybody is bored. The dumbing down and buffoonery of politics have let to absolute rejection.

Let me cite another reason for the scepticism about politics - young people see how much their parents, teachers and professors are paid: They don't respect such politics and are disinterested.

This situation has been deliberately created to make less and less people engage actively in politics and lead more and more of the population to readily accept decision-making on their behalf by third parties.

Today many contemporary and well-educated young people favour left-wing radicals. Russia's economy is structured in such a way that young people with a good technical background are not in demand. We have a raw materials-based economy which does not require many well-educated and intelligent people. And it does not need scholars at all. Teachers are paid kopeks, geography experts, historians, archaeologists - a great number of specialties - are not needed at all. The economy needs a small number of managers, accountants and so-called businessmen. Consequently people turn to radical outfits.

Question: Grigory Alexeevich, this is a strange situation! Several days ago we interviewed Alexander Voloshin (Ed. Head of the Presidential Administration). He also said that the situation was complicated and had developed in this way, because our state is not properly structured - it is unable to do this and it is unable to do that: It was strange to hear this comment from Voloshin. For more or less educated citizens believe that Voloshin represents the state in many aspects. Now you, one of the country’s political leaders, are telling us that young people do not engage in politics because our politics are worthless. Who will change this good-for-nothing state and worthless politics?

Yavlinsky: You. The young people: Or give us an opportunity to form a faction in the Duma of two hundred people and then we shall be responsible.

Question: The movement Yabloko Without Yavlinsky has been gaining strength, and the mass media have disseminated information that this movement was initiated by Chubais and Kokh, the SPS in short. Is this really so?

Yavlinsky: It would certainly look that way.

Question: Don’t you want to respond by initiating a movement UES Without Chubais?

Yavlinsky: We opposed, together with Presidential Aide Andrei Illarionov, the reforms pushed through by Chubais -simply because capitalization of UES has dropped six times recently and the company is falling apart. However, I myself am making this statement and am not hiring the homeless to do this for me.

Question: Why there has been no normal interaction between the right-wing political parties - YABLOKO and the SPS? Why did you want to cooperate first and then changed your mind?

Yavlinsky: There are a number of laws and political issues that we are pushing through together. But there are also a number of principled positions where we failed to reach agreement. For example, in 1999 the SPS was saying that the Russian army was being revived in Chechnya and war should be carried out until final victory. YABLOKO and our voters could not agree with this situation (incidentally it is now clear who was right at the time). A year later you had the closure of the NTV television company. Alfred Kokh headed the team "on behalf of Gazprom" which closed and destroyed NTV. Today Kokh represents the SPS.

There are many differences between our parties in economic policy as well: in our opinion the shares for loans auctions were a mistake and that the government treasury bond pyramid was also a mistake. We think that the default should have been prevented and that today’s reforms of UES are wrong. We hold different views, these things happen.

Question: What do you think about introducing "natural rental charges", an issue that has been discussed a lot recently?

Yavlinsky: This is sheer populism. We can speak about adjusting profit margins and this can be debated. However, this issue should not be used as a platform for political revenge. It is very dangerous. Our calculations demonstrate that the state could receive an additional USD 3-4 billion by introducing such rental charges. The current budget comes to about USD 90 billion. Are these additional USD 3-4 billion worth a political fight? In the end, rich people are the economic drivers. Ruining them is the same as killing the hen that lays the golden eggs.

However, the gap between the thin band of very rich and large numbers of very poor is absolutely inadmissible. A number of different mechanisms can be applied to overcome this gap. For example, the wide-ranging development of family business facing very low taxes, extensive development of small and medium-sized businesses, also low taxes. YABLOKO has submitted corresponding legislation to the Duma. Total withholdings should not exceed 25%. In general e should seek to raise living standards rather than bring down levels at the top. Have a look at the alternative YABLOKO draft budget for the country [for 2004] on our web site. We have made specific proposals on how to overcome the gap in living standards.

Question: There is another stumbling block: what do you think about the privatization results - should they be revised?

Yavlinsky: Any administrative revision of privatisation results - despite all the shortcomings of the privatisation process – is inadmissible. Such property redistribution would be completely devoid of any criteria. Consequently, only the names of the owners can be changed, and not the system of relations between the authorities and business. Everybody knows that there is a third party in addition to the state and business. This group of interests is represented by individuals who believe that they missed out on their share in the mid-1990s. These people are trying to use their influence on President Putin to effect an administrative redistribution of property.

Any such redistribution would lead to the most severe conflict with the present owners and would undermine trust in any forms of property and property rights in Russia for a long time to come.

Secondly, the dismantling of the system should not be repressive and should not undermine trust in new reforms and the investment climate in Russia. To re solve this problem I propose adopting a package of draft laws consisting of three main components.

First of all, to rule out any possible speculation on the documents during the time of troubles in the mid-1990s, laws should be adopted on an amnesty for capital and a tax amnesty up to criminal charges, but not for murders and crimes against individuals.

The second part of the package of draft laws refers to the regulation of relations between business and the authorities, above all the need to separate them. At present the financing of political parties has not been transparent and business has made considerable efforts to corrupt different decisions in parliament in the most direct and coarse forms. Furthermore, the public sectors that are not backed by forces with such financial resources for lobbying, end up in a very weak position in the Duma.

Consequently, we should adopt laws on the transparency of financing of political parties and transparent lobbying in parliament. We also think that this part of the package should also include the laws that would create a basis for public independent television, which Russia does not have yet. This would free the mass media of the constant overt and coarse pressure by the oligarchs. Obviously it would also be useful to limit via legislation any possible participation in politics by people who played an active role in privatisation for a ten-year term.

The first and the second are mandatory conditions for starting long work to demonopolise the Soviet and now Russian economy. It is also necessary to adopt anti-monopoly laws and apply tough anti-monopoly regulations. Naturally a strong and independent government is needed o implement these measures.

We presume that implementation of all these measures that guarantee property rights and protect the political authorities - the Duma, the government and presidential structures - from aggressive pressure by the oligarchs will be opposed by the third force that we mentioned earlier. However, the demonopolisation of markets and public protection of the independence of the judicial system would make it possible to gradually transfer the violent fight using semi-criminal methods and the law enforcement agencies as part of natural economic competition, which is so vital for the Russian economy.

In our opinion the adoption of such a package of laws represents the only alternative to an endless recurrence of the YUKOS case or to even more serious conflicts and fights that will sporadically lead to serious political and economic instability in Russia.

Question: Do you share the concerns of Pavlovsky over a possible change in the President's course?

Yavlinsky: There is something in everything he says. But no more than that. Pavlovsky himself participates in the developments and works for certain people. As for the President - there is nothing that can be done, he has to be supple. This is something that any leader has to do. It is most important that the general line of progress is not lost during such manoeuvring.


See also:

State Duma elections 2003


YABLOKO against Corruption

Privatisation in Russia

Rosbalt, September 25, 2003

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