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Tagesspiegel, January 12, 2004

The state comes first for Vladimir Putin

Interview with Grigory Yavlinsky by Claudia von Salzen

Question: Parties loyal to the Kremlin obtained the absolute majority at the [parliamentary] elections [in Russia]. What does this mean for your country?

Yavlinsky: We don't have an independent parliament any more. For the first time since the collapse of the Soviet Union we again have a one-party parliament. There are no independent mass media of any significance any more. There is no public control over secret services and the law enforcement agencies, there is no independent legislature. The authorities considerably influence the elections. All elements of society are concentrated in the same hands which resemble the 1930s. This is a semi-Soviet system.

Question: How will the domestic and the foreign policy of the country change?

Yavlinsky: This is absolutely impossible to predict.

Question: At presidential elections in 1996 you ran against Yeltsin and against Putin in 2000. Why don't you want to run in March 2004?

Yavlinsky: This will be not true elections. Three things are required so that the elections could be called fair: independent courts controlling the legitimacy of actions, an independent mass media and independent sources of party financing. However, we lack all of these. Courts, mass media and the finances depend on the Kremlin. The elections resemble a football match, where the results were agreed upon beforehand. This is inadmissible for us.

Question: What would you say to your voters if they ask who they should vote for?

Yavlinsky: My party will only take a decision in February. We have a very intelligent electorate. And the fact that we are not participating in the elections and say that they are not lawful is self-explanatory.

Question: There have already been proposals to boycott the elections. What do you think?

Yavlinsky: This depends on the situation. When in 1996 Yeltsin and Zyuganov competed in the second round, we recommended that our electorate vote against all. Yet we decided that we don't support Putin.

Question: Why did the YABLOKO party fail to overcome the five per cent barrier?

Yavlinsky: People in Russia are disappointed by the poor progress of the reforms. We failed to explain to them that there may be different reforms and that true democracy, a real market economy and fair system can exist. It is very difficult to explain to the people that what we have in Russia now is not a true democracy. This country has never experienced democracy.

Question: Do you regret now that you did not conclude an agreement with another liberal party, the SPS?

Yavlinsky: No, the decision was absolutely right. SPS members supported the break-up of the NTV television company. They supported the war in Chechnya. At the latest elections they supported Putin. Some of them are responsible for the criminal privatisation in Russia. A union with such people would be inadmissible for my voters.

Question: How outside the State Duma can YABLOKO survive as a political party until the next elections?

Yavlinsky: This will be extremely difficult. We shall participate in the regional elections. We should derive lessons from our mistakes. We shall make broader coalitions.

Question: But with whom?

Yavlinsky: With civil organisations, human rights activists and non-governmental organisations.

Question: What is your attitude to Vladimir Putin at present?

Yavlinsky: We have been in opposition to Putin's domestic and economic policy. At the same time we have supported the central elements of his foreign policy. But we have to wait and see what will happen after the elections. We don't agree with Putin on many principle issues: for Putin the state comes first, and the individual ranks second, third or tenth."


See also:

State Duma elections 2003

Presidential elections 2004

Tagesspiegel, January 12, 2004

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