Kasyanov is the best candidate for president in 2008

An interview with Irina Khakamada.

Question: Why the decision to make an alliance with ex-premier Mikhail Kasyanov? Do you view him as the best promising opposition leader?

Irina Khakamada: We’ve known each other for years. I’m convinced that Kasyanov is the best candidate for president in 2008 we will ever find.

Question: You ran for president too and came in fourth in 2004. You are stepping aside in Kasyanov’s favor now. Why?

Irina Khakamada: For various reasons and considerations. The principal of them all is that he has more experience, political and administrative, than I do. Besides, men traditionally poll more votes in Russia than women. And of course, he is a Russia while I’m part Japanese.

Question: Do you really believe that Kasyanov may become the president?

Irina Khakamada: We will strive for it together. I have faith in Kasyanov. In the meantime, the regime is doing what it can to install Putin’s successor. The magnitude of the administrative resource deployed indicates that he will be someone from Putin’s team.

Question: And exactly how do you intend to assist Kasyanov?

Irina Khakamada: We have Our Choice Trust and People’s Democratic Union. Their activists will tour the regions to explain the true meaning of the authorities’ actions and initiatives and their ramifications.

What the authorities are doing (at least, a great deal of it) returns the country to the Soviet past. We want people to know, for example, what they shall expect from new amendments to the laws on education or health care. Unfortunately, all of that is not available in newspapers, on TV, or in radio broadcasts. Genuinely democratic media outlets in Russia are becoming an endangered species. Actual trips to reveal and explain are the only means left to us.

Question: What about the authorities disappoint and irk you the worst?

Irina Khakamada: What they have done to democracy in Russia. It was murdered, it’s as simple as that. The Kremlin established pocket parties with pocket leaders, and it is playing at democracy now. Consider Nikita Belykh, the new leader of the Union of Right Forces…

Genuine democratic opposition is in the shadows now. There are practically no references to it in the media – positive references, that is. Whenever pro-president media outlets pay attention to the true opposition, it is only to attack it.

Question: I hear that media outlets are not the only attackers. I mean that an attack on you as a person was plotted in Samara once…

Irina Khakamada: It was plotted indeed. I went there to promote my book Six In Big-Time Politics at Najanova’s University. It was Eduard Limonov who had warned me of the possibility of an attack before the trip was undertaken. He called me to say that a radical group of ex-members of the National Bolshevik Party, a splinter group, could make its move in Samara. Aware of how Garri Kasparov’s assistant had been battered not long ago, I approached the police. They assigned protection, but I also had two men from Limonov’s party as bodyguards.

Question: Are you disappointed in the president?

Irina Khakamada: I certainly am. My faith in Putin lasted the first two years when I supported him in everything. Putin spoke of the necessity of liberal-democratic reforms in his first two annual Messages to the Federal Assembly. He kept his word at first but time came when he became “forgetful”. Democracy in Russia is dwindling by the year.

Question: Kasparov of Committee’2008 said once that particularly ardent political adversaries of the Kremlin are invited for a friendly chat and tempted with plum positions and so on. I.e. bribed. Have you ever been tempted in this manner?

Irina Khakamada: Come on. I’m too experienced for that and couldn’t be bought, as everyone knows.

Question: But you must have been in contact with Deputy Director of the Presidential Administration Vladislav Surkov. Has he offered anything?

Irina Khakamada: Never. I do not remain in touch with Surkov or with any other representatives of the Kremlin for that matter.

Question: But Surkov is the authorities’ supervisor of political parties in Russia. Once a leader of the Union of Right Forces and deputy chairwoman of the Duma, you must have been in touch…

Irina Khakamada: We haven’t. As a matter of fact, I respect Surkov as a professional. Putin put him in charge to have him build the power vertical in Russia and monitor it. Surkov has done it. He is an irreplaceable man for Putin.