#18 - JRL 7249
Russian Liberal Politician Reveals Campaigning Tactics
Source: Kommersant-Vlast, Moscow, in Russian 7 Jul 03
Russian Union of Right Forces party positions itself as a "constructive opposition" to the Kremlin, its leader Boris Nemtsov has told Russian magazine Kommersant-Vlast. In the runup to the general election in December 2003, the party relies on the people who benefited from reform in Russia, he said. The party will resort to "door-to-door" campaigning tactics in view of what Nemtsov described as information blockade by the government-controlled media. The following is the text of an interview, conducted by Kommersant-Vlast correspondent Syuzanna Farizova, titled "We will not become hysterical" and published on 7 July, followed by background information provided by Kommersant-Vlast. Subheadings inserted editorially:
At the end of August-beginning of September, the president is to kick off the Duma electoral campaign. On the threshold of this event, Vlast is presenting a new rubric - "Party Parade." Each week, we will tell about one of the leading parties of Russia - that is, those which are represented in the State Duma at the present moment. Today, we present the Union of Right Forces (SPS).
We are a constructive opposition
(Correspondent) How will the pre-electoral campaign of the SPS be structured? Will you finally go to the opposition, or will you not risk harshly criticizing the Kremlin? (Nemtsov) We are a constructive opposition. We will not stage any hysterics over the personality of President Putin. We regard him with respect. But when the armed forces are falling apart and nothing is being done about reducing taxes, we are in categorical disagreement with this. On the other hand, when he admits that the new law "On citizenship," which prohibits entry into the country for millions of our fellow countrymen, was a mistake - we are only in favour of this. After all, how does the constructive opposition differ from "separatism?" In that the "separatists" react not to actions, but to the individual personality.
(Correspondent) That is, the SPS does not intend to "separate?"
(Nemtsov) That is not a serious consideration. As it is, a constructive opposition presupposes a certain harshness. They jabber on about the housing municipal services management. The communists and Yabloko shout: let's reduce tariffs, let's make everything free. The result is a frozen country. What would the SPS do in this situation? (Unified Energy System of Russia CEO and SPS co-chairman) Anatoliy Chubays is proposing to implement large-scale investments into the municipal services sector in 10 of the country's major cities, so as to provide the people with heat and hot water without increasing tariffs. Do you see the difference?
(Correspondent) But the communists can afford to "prattle" - their rating is over 23 per cent. But yours is three per cent. And if you assume a harsh position in regard to the housing municipal services management, which runs counter to the position of the Kremlin, you might not get elected to the Duma at all.
(Nemtsov) We have constructive relations with the authorities. We do not flirt with them. The elections are a marathon race. It is not important where you are on the 10th kilometre. What is important is what happens on the 42nd. In August of 1999, Putin had a rating of two per cent, but in half a year he became president of the country, getting 53 per cent. Half a year before the elections (in 1996), Yeltsin had two per cent, but he won. In the last elections, the SPS had one per cent three months before the finish - but at the finish it had 8.5 per cent. We should not pay attention to interim sociological surveys, whose results are used to manipulate public opinion. In reality, what depends on the Kremlin in the elections? The state television channels and the administrative resources. The marionette parties of One Russia and Yabloko are greatly dependent on relations with the Kremlin. This is specifically why they are staging sham measures such as the no-confidence vote in the technical government. One can declare a vote of no-confidence in the guards of the Kommersant ID (publishing house) with equal success - not the editor-in-chief, but specifically the technical personnel.
SPS unhappy with government military reform plan
(Correspondent) But you are criticizing Minister of Defence Sergey Ivanov for his variant of military reform.
(Nemtsov) Sergey Ivanov and the military bureaucracy are proposing to split the army into two parts: the elite, and the third-rate. In the elite - that is, the contract army - contract soldiers would get R6,000-7,000 (per month), while officer would be paid R15,000, and would be given housing. In the third-rate - i.e., the line units - there would be hazing, barracks crime and poverty wages for homeless officers. How can we support this? Furthermore, we recently conducted studies in the Moscow Military District. They showed that the minister of defence enjoys no authority among the armed forces, and it is unlikely that his authority will increase after such experiments are conducted.
(Correspondent) That is, you will criticize individual public officials, but not the president?
(Nemtsov) We have many questions for the president. For three years now, he has been talking about the need for implementing military and administrative reform. And what has been done? The question is: who is hindering the president? The Duma is obedient, the Federation Council does not exist as an independent body, the governors are loyal and television is tame. So, who is hindering the president? The answer is: the bureaucracy, from which the president came, and which - as has always been the case in Russia - is not interested in change. The fateful question of the moment is whether Putin will be able to rely on civil society, or whether he will remain the head of the Russian bureaucracy. There are grave doubts about the fact that Putin is seriously capable of combating the bureaucracy.
Party of winners
(Correspondent) Who will vote for the SPS in December?
(Nemtsov) First and foremost, the millions of people who have benefited from reform in Russia, as well as those who want to accomplish something. The people who have bought themselves cars, houses and mobile phones during this time. The SPS helped them to become winners. The losers and the insulted will vote for the left-wingers - the Communist Party of the Russian Federation and Yabloko. Based on political considerations, the communists and Yabloko will do everything they can to see that there are as many losers as possible. This would allow them to win seats in the Duma.
(Correspondent) And what about you, do you not need seats in the Duma?
(Nemtsov) I repeat: those who want to achieve success, or who have already achieved it, will vote for us. And the more of them there are, the more seats in the Duma we will have. Therefore, the SPS is vitally interested in seeing to it that the number of people who win out as a result of the reforms increases from 20 to 60 million people. And it has a programme on how to do this.
(Correspondent) Do you make such frequent mention of Yabloko because you feel slighted by their refusal to unite with the SPS?
(Nemtsov) The unification is not a current issue. Yabloko made its choice - they are a left-wing party. Now, a coalition of populists is forming in our country - Zyuganov-Yavlinskiy (Communist and Yabloko leaders).
(Correspondent) You say that you are prepared to criticize the Kremlin. Are you so sure that the outcome of the elections, including your election to the Duma, depends only on the will of the voter?
(Nemtsov) And are you trying to say that there are fewer than five per cent winners in our country? That is nonsense. The authorities are not loyal to any party but their own. And, at the elections, we will have to contend with total censorship on the part of the authorities. Already now, 90 per cent of the news programmes are devoted to One Russia. This party of charismatic persons has already reached everyone.
(Correspondent) You speak as if the total censorship will not apply to Communists and Yabloko... (Ellipsis as published)
(Nemtsov) Well, they have different goals. Nothing but nostalgic recollections of the past. Yavlinskiy, who has not done anything for 10 years, will not do anything for another 10 years. Therefore, they are not dangerous to the Kremlin. We are the only force that can move the country. After all, it is not (nationalist politician Vladimir) Zhirinovskiy, Zyuganov and Yavlinskiy?!
Focus of election campaign to be shifted to regions
(Correspondent) And what will you do about this total censorship?
(Nemtsov) We will go to the regions. We have developed an entire "door-to-door" programme, in which over 25,000 volunteers will be involved. They will personally explain the essence of our programme to the voters, pass out leaflets and gather pickets. (SPS co-chairperson) Irina Khakamada and I have set the task for ourselves to meet with millions of voters, and at the same time to also correct our mistakes.
(Correspondent) Are you referring to the mistakes of Anatoliy Chubays?
(Nemtsov) Everyone says - Chubays! Yet in Belarus, Ukraine and Georgia - there is no Chubays, but wages there are two times lower (than in Russia), and pensions too. Are you not put off by this? There was no privatization there, but the people are living worse.
(Correspondent) And will Chubays also meet with the voters?
(Nemtsov) Chubays does not have time. He cannot work for 24 hours a day dealing with Unified Energy System and the party at the same time. We have an agreement with him: Khakamada and I answer for the party, and he deals primarily with the power industry.
(Correspondent) Is it possible that he might appear as number three on the list of candidates?
(Nemtsov) We have not yet determined Chubays' status in the elections. Everyone is being discussed for the third spot on the list - from entrepreneurs to journalists. I might add that Chubays himself must be convinced of the importance of participating in the elections. I tell him: if you do not engage in political activity, not a single reform will pass. After all, the office of head of the Unified Energy System joint-stock company is a political one.
(Correspondent) Do you also have to convince the head of your electoral headquarters, Alfred Kokh?
(Nemtsov) Alfred generally has no burning desire to go to the Duma. For him, it is much more important to come to business on 8 December, and say: look, I conducted the SPS electoral campaign. And I have no doubt that he will conduct it well. As for the lists, he is not included on the SPS federal electoral list.
(Correspondent) And has (Russian prime minister in April-August 1998 and presidential envoy in the Volga Federal District) Sergey Kiriyenko left the SPS for good?
(Nemtsov) Sergey Kiriyenko, if you will recall, works for President Putin. And naturally, he fulfils the instructions of the president and his administration. He works for One Russia, and does so correctly, because that is the will of the Kremlin.
(Correspondent) The SPS has perhaps one of the strongest financial resources. Who will help you in the elections?
(Nemtsov) I cannot name the companies without first clearing this with them. I will say only that there are on the order of 25 famous brands. The sponsorship share of each one does not exceed 10 per cent of our budget. This allows the party to remain independent.
(Correspondent) And whom will you fight against in the elections?
(Nemtsov) We will fight for our voter.
History of the party
The history of the SPS in fact began in the autumn of 1993, when the pro-presidential bloc, "Russia's Choice," under the leadership of Deputy Prime Minister Yegor Gaydar, was formed for participation in the first elections to the State Duma. Contrary to its optimistic expectations, the party of power got only 15.7 per cent of the votes, falling behind the (nationalist) Liberal Democratic Party of Russia (23.2 per cent), and only slightly surpassing the communists (11.9 per cent). In 1994, already deprived of governmental posts, Gaydar founded the "Russia's Democratic Choice" party. In the 1995 elections, the "Demvybor (Democratic Choice) -United Democrats" were unable to override the five-per-cent hurdle, and did not get into to the Duma. Before the elections of 1999, the democrats announced the creation of the "Union of Right Forces" pre-electoral bloc, which included the "Right Cause" movement (chairman Sergey Kiriyenko), "Young Russia" (Boris Nemtsov), and "New Force" (Irina Khakamada), as well as "Democratic Choice" (Yegor Gaydar), and nine other parties. The electoral list was headed up by Kiriyenko, Nemtsov and Khakamada. The SPS got 8.6 per cent of the votes in the elections, and formed its own faction in the State Duma. In May of 2000, the electoral bloc was transformed into a social-political movement, and in January of 2001 - into a political party, the SPS.
Boris Nemtsov, chairman of the federal council
Nemtsov became the leader of the SPS and chairman of the Duma union's factions after Sergey Kiriyenko was appointed to the duties of presidential plenipotentiary representative in the Volga Federal District in 2000. In 2001, Nemtsov was elected chairman of the SPS federal council. He is the "face of the party," and speaks out in its name with statements on key problems. Aside from this, Nemtsov's duties include interaction with the presidential administration and the governors. At the parliamentary elections, he will head up the all-federal list of the Union of Right Forces.
Anatoliy Chubays, co-chairman
The head of the Russian energy monopoly almost never speaks out in the name of the party, but is considered to be its shadow leader. Along with Boris Nemtsov, he answers for the ideology and financial questions. He did not participate in the elections of 1999: The right-wingers believed that the name of Chubays on the list of candidates might scare off part of the electorate. But we cannot rule out the possibility that he will be included in the SPS list in the coming elections. Indirect confirmation of this is the fact that, in recent times, Chubays has sharply stepped up the number of his statements in the mass media on questions which do not directly concern reform of the electrical power industry.
Irina Khakamada, co-chairman
The deputy head of the Duma SPS faction, she held the post of deputy speaker in the State Duma of the 1999 convocation. Along with Boris Nemtsov, she plays the role of "talking head" of the union. She was a supporter of unification of the SPS party with Yabloko in the elections, and took an active part in negotiations with Grigoriy Yavlinskiy. Then again, these negotiations proved fruitless. Khakamada is responsible for the implementation of party projects in the sphere of development of small and medium-size business, as well as the tax reduction programme. However, she does not have the right to make key decisions in the party.
Yegor Gaydar, co-chairman
Gaydar does not play a big role in the process of making vital decisions. Rather, he may be considered a symbol of the "right cause." It is specifically he who presented the "Russia's Democratic Choice" party as the basis for the SPS electoral bloc in 1999. But while Yegor Gaydar took an active part in party construction up until 1999, from the moment that the SPS bloc was created, he has become practically unnoticed as a public politician and active participant in the political process, concentrating on his work at the Institute of the Economy of Transitional Period, which was created also at his initiative.
The SPS political council meeting in June adopted the party's pre-electoral platform, under the general slogan, "Freedom, Private Property, and an Effective State." The basis of the party platform is similar to the programme of the SPS electoral bloc at the 1999 elections. The main goals of the SPS remain: Instituting military reform and creating a professional army; Stopping the war in Chechnya; Free enterprise; Increased financing for education and science. Among the new tasks are: Protection of the rights of citizens against encroachments on the part of the criminal element and the authorities; Civilian control over the army and paramilitary agencies; Strict separation of power from capital, and capital from power, as well as protection of peasants against agrarian bureaucrats. Aside from this, the right-wingers have added to their platform the principal need for combating the propaganda of violence, inter-ethnic and inter-religious enmity in the mass media, as well as the need to strictly tie in any cooperation with the CIS countries with adherence to rights of the Russian and Russian-speaking population in these countries, as well as general legal standards.
Manpower: According to data of the Ministry of Justice, by July of 2003, the SPS party numbered 27,234 members. Five members of the SPS are members of the Federation Council, 32 are deputies of the State Duma, 140 are deputies of regional legislative assemblies, 460 are deputies of bodies of local government, and three members of the SPS are mayors of regions' main cities. The SPS has regional departments in 83 (out of 89) constituent parts of the Russian Federation.
Administrative (resources): The right-wingers have difficult relationship with the Kremlin (and this is one of the most important factors in the forthcoming campaign). The SPS cannot seem to define itself: Either to finally go to the opposition, or, in exchange for administrative preferences, to soften its rhetoric and criticize the authorities only with the sanction of the Kremlin. Boris Nemtsov's appeals for dismissal of Minister of Defence Sergey Ivanov are being replaced by positive comments about the work of the president and the government, especially when the SPS needs to "push" some draft laws through the Duma's centrist majority. An indicative example was the question of appointment of the new human rights representative. The main aspirant to this post was considered to be SPS member Pavel Krasheninnikov. The candidacy of the former minister of justice fully suited the Kremlin, but the presidential administration, in return for his appointment, demanded that the SPS stop developing its concept of military reform, which ran counter to the proposals of the General Staff and the Ministry of Defence. As a result, Krasheninnikov was never able to gain Duma support - even despite the fact that the harsh criticism addressed at the president and the minister of defence was reduced to a minimum for a while, and the president himself praised the SPS for the current nature of its proposals on military reform.
Financial (resources): The material position of the right-wingers is rather stable. Only the head of (oil major) Yukos, Mikhail Khodorkovskiy, has officially spoken of financing the SPS. But aside from Yukos, sponsors of the party include the (pipeline operator) Transneft, (financial company) Interros, (steel manufacturer) Severstal, and (oil company) Slavneft, (aluminium company) Sual, Alfa-Bank, the Petrokommerts Bank, the AFK Sistema Corporation, and Unified Energy System of Russia. SPS inter-party documents stipulate the position according to which sponsorship of each company (altogether there are about 25 of them) cannot exceed 10 per cent. In this way, the right-wingers are trying to avoid dependence on the interests of one business group.
(Passage omitted: Russian political analysts Boris Grushin and Vyacheslav Nikonov evaluate the electoral prospects of the SPS, say that it likely to get as many seats in the future Duma as it has now.)