An interview with LDPR leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky.

LDPR leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky voted against the 2010 budget. It became his first public protest against the policy of Prime Minister Vladimir Putin. As far as Zhirinovsky was concerned, the allegedly "social emphasis" of the next year budget was nothing but an onset of United Russia’s electoral campaign.

Question: Criticizing the budget, you challenge Putin. That’s the first time for you, right?

Vladimir Zhirinovsky: Come on, we’ve been at it for 20 years. It’s just that they keep it under the lid. We did not vote for the budget last year. We did not vote for the anti-crisis action plan this spring… Nothing like that ever makes news programs. The illusion is that we are a tame opposition.

Question: What would you ascribe the joint boycott of the draft budget to?

Vladimir Zhirinovsky: The government refuses to invest in Russian industry. Or in the agricultural-industrial sector for that matter. The government boasts of what they call social emphasis of the budget but that will pass as soon as they find the cupboard empty. As they are bound to, before long.

Question: You called the budget a bribe offered to voters. Why?

Vladimir Zhirinovsky: They count on the elderly of which we will soon have 40 million in Russia. The elderly are predictably grateful. They will be getting 200 rubles instead of 100 in 2012. United Russia knows that the middle class is not with them, intelligentsia is not with them… Neither is the youth or the Russian people with them, actually. And who is left? Who stands by them? Not even swindlers stand by them because United Russia threatens to jail them all… Hence the reliance on the elderly, to which they throw crumbs from their table every six months or so.

Governments do make sense in economy every now and then and take some sensible step or other, but they resign then… or in a year or two.

It is not a budget for the people that they have drawn. It is a budget that will secure them their own place under the sun. That’s why they call it society-oriented. What about development of economy? The president himself promoted it in his “Forward, Russia!” He promoted it at the meeting with businesses. The ruling party is playing against the president, that’s the only conclusion. Consider what they did to the law on corruption, how effectively they rendered it absolutely impotent… They are only thinking of themselves.

Question: How do your opponents behave in the Duma? Are they being smug, or what? Are they comfortable, in general?

Vladimir Zhirinovsky: They never advertise their United Russia membership if they can help it. They themselves tell us: sure, guys, you are right; we are absolutely helpless here. Why are they mad at the opposition? They are ever antsy because they are not permitted to speak up, because sitting like dolts and pushing the vote button is all that is required and expected from them. It irritates them that others speak their mind. They accept what we say, it is their helplessness that makes them edgy. Everything is orchestrated, everything is decided for them: what lawmaker asks what question and when. So, this largest faction of 315 lawmakers is divided into 15 or so who really do something and the remaining 300 who are not permitted to do anything. They are nothing, and that’s what makes them jumpy.

Question: This is the first time in the history of the Duma when three factions voted against the budget, right?

Vladimir Zhirinovsky: Because everyone is fed up with this state of affairs. We kept telling them in the past to stop bothering with budget surplus and invest it instead. No, they said, we will have a budget surplus because it is an indicator of financial health. They have a budget deficit now. We kept telling them to increase salaries and pensions and they said that it would send inflation rate soaring sky-high… They are chameleons, and the budget they’ve drawn is a budget for chameleons too. It’s a budget for triumph in the next election.