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Izvestia, December 24, 2003

Grigory Yavlinsky: You Cannot Raise Funds for the Campaign Without the Consent of the Regime

By Mikhail Vinogradov

Grigory Yavlinsky - leader of the Yabloko party, which is not represented in the new Duma - will not take part in the presidential race. In this interview, the Yabloko leader explains the reasons for his decision. Yavlinsky doesn't view this as a disaster; he intends to try to preserve and strengthen his party, looking ahead to the next elections.

Question: Why have you decided against running for president?

Grigory Yavlinsky: Because elections in Russia today cannot be fair, cannot be open, and cannot be even relatively competitive, in real terms.

Question: A number of media outlets reported that you were invited to the Kremlin to discuss this with the presidential administration, and you were urged to run. Did this happen?

Grigory Yavlinsky: I have not been to the Kremlin to discuss this issue. Those reports are not true.

Question: Perhaps you're just afraid to run?

Grigory Yavlinsky: In the 1996 election, as well as the 2000 election, I was up against rivals who were by no means weak, and the question of ratings was urgent then as well. Therefore, the real issue nowadays is this: if there is no independent judicial system, if there are no independent national media outlets, if there are no independent sources of funding, then taking part in elections becomes a purely decorative exercise. In the circumstances, the election conditions themselves discredit the idea of liberal democracy and Russia developing along the European path - and that is the only reason why I would take part in elections. This election is too much like a Potemkin village. What's more, there is a technicality which is a recent development: the actual techniques for collecting signatures when there is administrative resistance. In the time available - given that it overlaps with the New Year and Christmas holiday season - it's impossible to collect over 2 million signatures without the use of administrative resources.

Question: According to another theory, Yabloko has simply run out of money - the money donated by YUKOS - and that's why you aren't running for president.

Grigory Yavlinsky: That is not the issue. Funding has indeed run out due to the force majeur situation, but the money had nothing to do with the presidential election. But the point is that in principle, Russia now has no independent sources of funding for political activity. None. The business community is scared to death and fully under the regime's control. You cannot raise campaign funding without the regime's consent.

Question: The Yabloko congress has delegated representatives to the Joint Democratic Council, as proposed by the Union of Right-Wing Forces (SPS). Why bother doing this, if you haven't managed to agree to field a single presidential candidate?

Grigory Yavlinsky: A dialogue with diverse democratic forces remains essential. And our congress delegated some Yabloko representatives to work in coalition with all democratic forces, including the SPS. On the whole, we need to unite the democratic forces, unite everyone who disagrees with the policies now being implemented in Russia.

Question: Some say the time of the right wing - that is, the SPS and Yabloko - has passed; so it doesn't matter whether you form a coalition or not. The December 7 vote is offered as proof of this.

Grigory Yavlinsky: Those who say that don't understand politics. Actually, Yabloko can only be described as "right-wing" conditionally. We are democrats; Yabloko is a democratic party, not a right-wing party. What's more, the elections showed that there are millions of voters who even this time, even in the most difficult conditions, did vote for the policies and values which are a matter of principle for us and vital for Russia's future.

Question: The SPS will hold its congress in late January. According to some reports, the SPS may decide to endorse Putin in the presidential election. In that event, would coalition work continue, or would you break off contacts with the SPS?

Grigory Yavlinsky: Let's not make guesses; let's wait and see. If and when the SPS makes such a decision, then things will become clear. In politics, you really need to talk with everyone,
all the time. Even though Yabloko holds different views on this issue, as everyone knows.

Question: Many SPS activists have stated outright that Yabloko lost the Duma elections - partially because "Yavlinsky was incapable of reaching agreement." Was it possible to form a coalition with the SPS before the Duma elections?

Grigory Yavlinsky: We stand by our previous point of view. The matter you are asking about was impossible, and unnecessary. And harmful.

Question: Aren't you afraid that if you stay out of the presidential elections in March, that will mean the end of your career as a public politician, and the end of your party?

Grigory Yavlinsky: No, I'm not afraid. Because it's wrong to take part in decorative political measures.

Question: Some say you intend to move to London and travel around the world - giving lectures at universities, for example.

Grigory Yavlinsky: They're wrong.

Question: In your view, who will be the other presidential candidates, besides Vladimir Putin?

Grigory Yavlinsky: I don't know. Everything will become clear a week to ten days from now.

Question: What are you planning to do now?

Grigory Yavlinsky: Live.

Question: What about in politics?

Grigory Yavlinsky: In politics - we need to preserve and strengthen the party. In today's conditions, this is a major challenge. It will be a very difficult task to preserve a democratic party and prepare it for the next elections, given that the country has a one-party parliament, no independent media, no independent judiciary, and no independent sources of funding.


See also:

State Duma elections 2003

Presidential elections 2004

Democratic Coalition


Izvestia, December 24, 2003

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