ON THE CONGRESS OF THE YABLOKO
Vremya Novostei, October 30, 2000, p. 3
This was the first emergency congress of Yabloko that journalists were barred from. The movement’s leadership explained that the congress was purely “technical”, that it had been convened for the purpose of broadening the Central Council from 45 to 60 members by introducing regional representatives into it. All the same, Grigori Yavlinsky’s report did not have anything to do with the election of new Central Council members. It was an analysis of Vladimir Putin’s presidency.
The congress did not appraise the president. According to Yabloko’s press secretary Yevgeniya Dillendorf, the delegates listened to Yavlinsky’s report but did not discuss it or pass a decision. At the congress held in early August Yavlinsky assured everybody that Yabloko would make up its mind with regards to the president by the next congress (whether it should become a “party of human rights activists” or a “party of opposition to the police state”). Judging by how the Yabloko faction voted on the 2001 budget, it will become neither of the two. It seems that the previous uncompromising Yabloko has become a constructive opposition so as to see at least some of its ideas implemented. Yabloko will decide what compromises it is prepared to make with the president only when it sees what compromises the president is ready for.
For the time being, the congress appealed to the president to launch military reforms in 2001. This is supposed to become a kind of test for the president and his readiness for compromises. It also suggested that the country began a transition to a professional army (service by contract) in 2001. Yabloko’s calculations show that the 2001 budget does have the money to reduce the number of conscripts in 2001. Putin’s reaction will make it clear what kind of cooperation the president is prepared to give.
Time will show whether or not the president finds Yabloko and its appeals interesting. On the other hand, this is Yabloko’s chance to improve its rating – the youth in this country is always alert to all news concerning conscription. If the Yabloko succeeds, then its course for “rejuvenation” is a success indeed. To a certain extent, its implementation already began at the emergency congress last weekend. All fifteen new members are younger than 25.
BLITZ-INTERVIEW WITH POLITICAL SCIENTISTS
Vremya Novostei, October 30, 2000, p. 3
Question: What political party does Russia lack?
Vyacheslav Nikonov of the Politics Foundation: Russia lacks normal political parties. The Communist Party may serve as a criterion of what a party should be. All the rest are either groups of lobbyists, parties for promotion of this or that candidate, or just “settee” parties. The whole political spectrum is allegedly represented but an ideological platform alone does not make a party. Parties are formed by elections where a great deal depends on the nature of the system of election. A lot also depends on whether or not the party is an element of power structures. These days, supreme power in Russia is beyond parties, and this state of affairs indicates a considerable gap between civil society and the regime. As I see it, we will lack a normal party system unless the president constructs a normal system of power formation. There is another question here. That is: how should political parties be formed? As I see it, a transition to the majoritarian system of election is the best way. This is because the majoritarian system will facilitate the appearance of nationwide party organizations, set up a responsible party system, and expedite consolidation of small and ideologically close parties.
Gleb Pavlovsky of Effective Policy Foundation: There are free niches in politics today, but they are difficult to fill. There are objective reasons in this country for the weakness of the social democrats in the political spectrum. Social democracy in modern world means a party for distributing surplus products. In bourgeois countries, social democrats exist on additional revenues of the budget, and this is something we cannot afford yet. Social democratic parties need an ideology probably even more than all other parties. In Russia, however, left traditions are exploited by other parties, and the media is openly hostile towards them. That is why the construction of a left-wing platform is impossible now. There is also an empty niche waiting to be filled by the opposition to Vladimir Putin. I expected this opposition to appear in the middle of the year but I clearly underestimated the weakness of our political community.
Boris Makarenko of the Center for Political Technologies: Russia is short of all kinds of parties. Only the Communist Party is a party in the traditional sense of the word, but it relies on the part of society which longs for the communist past. All other parties… well, there are problems with them. The power party does not want anybody else in what it considers its own niche. At the same time, the Unity is not transforming into a real centrist party. The Union of Right Forces and Yabloko are drifting towards the establishment of a normal liberal party. On the other hand, a party like that can represent the interests of only one-tenth of the population because society lacks a proper liberal ideology.
OBSERVERS APPRAISE THE RECENT CONGRESS OF UNITY AS SCANDALOUS
Rossia, October 30, 2000, p. 4
Addressing the congress, party leader Sergei Shoigu had trouble suppressing his emotions. It was clear to everybody how difficult it was for him to stay within the limits of civilized speech and avoid plunging into profanity. Observers agree that Shoigu now resembles Viktor Chernomyrdin and the Unity Our Home is Russia.
It is not the first time the Unity is called a new reincarnation of Our Home is Russia. Indeed, at first the new reincarnation of the power party seemed a success – it had almost one-third of seats on the Duma and had a young, energetic, and fairly ambitious leader. Still, nobody has ever doubted that the lack of ideology is a serious flaw.
The latest congress of the Unity displayed it for what it really is – a colossi on clay feet. Let us take a look at the intrigue unfolding within the Unity. Several PR companies are fighting tooth and claw for the privilege to work on the image of the power party, which is clearly deteriorating. It goes without saying that Gleb Pavlovsky and his Effective Policy Foundation which actively promoted the Unity during the parliamentary election fully expected the deal to be made with them. In fact, it was finally made with the Russian Informational Center.
The Center was established by Mikhail Margelov (the son of the legendary founder of the domestic Air Force) specifically to cover the events in the Caucasus. Now Margelov has landed the posh contract with the Unity and Pavlovsky with the Strana.ru project.
Observers predict that Pavlovsky must have been offended and therefore will start playing actively against the Unity.
GEORGY POLTAVCHENKO, PRESIDENTIAL PLENIPOTENTIARY REPRESENTATIVE IN THE CENTRAL FEDERAL REGION…
Moskovsky Komsomolets, October 31, 2000, p. 2
… has set up a reception office in Moscow, the second one. According to Poltavchenko, the first office was established about six months ago. It is was a success. It has already received about 3,000 appeals from residents of the federal region.
A RALLY TOOK PLACE IN MOSCOW
Moskovsky Komsomolets, October 31, 2000, p. 2
About 1,000 Muscovites attended a rally organized in memory of victims of Stalin’s repression at the Lubyanka Square in Moscow yesterday. Given the floor, Grigori Yavlinsky of Yabloko announced that “the threat of Stalinism is still present” and that “there are lots of Russians eager for another Stalin.”
Boris Nemtsov of the Union of Right Forces recalled that it took the Duma last Friday two attempts to adopt a resolution in memory of victims of the repression. The first attempt was thwarted by Unity faction which cited misunderstanding afterwards.
AN UPDATE ON RUSSIAN-AUSTRIAN RELATIONS
Trud, October 31, 2000, p. 1
Deputy Premier Valentina Matvienko and Austrian Minister of Economy and Labor Martin Bartenstein co-chaired a sitting of the Russian-Austrian Governmental Commission for Commerce and Economics taking place in Vienna. In 1999, trade turnover between the two countries amounted to almost $1.5 billion. In 2000 it is expected that this figure will be topped by 10-20 percent. Austrian investments in the Russian economy amount to $500 million and Russian investments in Austrian economy to $60 million.
NORWEGIAN MINISTER EVALUATES THE PROSPECTS OF RUSSIAN-NORWEGIAN RELATIONS
Rossiiskaya Gazeta, October 31, 2000, p. 7
A session of the Russian-Norwegian Governmental Commission for Economic, Scientific-technical and Industrial Cooperation took place in Moscow a few days ago.
Question: How would you appraise the scale of economic cooperation between our countries?
Greta Knudsen, Norwegian Minister of Commerce and Industry: Long-term economic cooperation between our countries has been growing over the years. As for the latest sitting of the governmental commission, I’d call it productive.
We discussed some problems concerning customs duties, a matter of importance for Russia in light of its eagerness to become a member of the World Trade Organization. We also mapped out specific spheres of cooperation – energy, environmental protection, and so on. Experts are working on specific proposals now. When they are ready, Norway will provide 275 million krones to your country for the implementation of the programs.
We have some specific projects for the Russian North. This has to do with the so called TV-medicine. A special seminary will be arranged.
I really think that there are certain things we can learn from one another. Norway is the first country in the world in the sphere of application of information technologies and PCs while Russia is strong in researches. Neither shall we forget the colossal potential of the market of telecommunications in Russia. Two large Norwegian companies are working on it now.
THE STATE COUNCIL: AN UPDATE
Nash Vek, October 30, 2000, p. 1
It is time to end debates over the prospects of the State Council formed by the president. Its members at the latest sitting were given important tasks by Vladimir Putin to accomplish.
Mayor of Moscow Yuri Luzhkov, for example, intends to address the next sitting of the State Council scheduled for February with a report on reorganization of state power in the Russian Federation. A special working team was established to prepare documents on the subject which Luzhkov himself considers to be “of paramount importance”.
Phase one of the reform will be a kind of research aimed at revealing the flaws in the system. The second phase will be “therapeutic” with recommendations of more radical changes in the usual system of relations among powers and with the adoption of proper laws and presidential decrees. All of that will be within the framework of the current constitution. It is at least a possibility, however, that phase two of the reforms will fail to produce the coveted results. In this case, phase three will make a constitutional amendment inevitable. As the head of the working group, Luzhkov denies the possibility itself of an immediate “constitutional revision”.