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REMARKS BY BORIS NADEZHDIN AT THE CONFERENCE "GOVERNMENT REFORM IN RUSSIA: WHAT IS TO BE DONE?"
[NOVOTEL MOSCOW CENTER, OCTOBER 7, 2004]
SOURCE: FEDERAL NEWS SERVICE (http://www.fednews.ru/)
Nadezhdin: The time limit is pretty tough, so I will give you theses without bothering to provide the arguments. If somebody wants to know why I think as I do, you can ask questions.
Not only Russia, but all modern states face a fundamental problem. One can put it this way: is it possible in the context of globalization, terrorism, Islamic confrontation -- all these threats are well known and have been thoroughly discussed -- is it possible in principle or simultaneously to have the following regimes in states and societies? And is it possible to simultaneously have the following things to which the Western world has long been used and we were trying to get used to?
First, democracy and rule by the people. Second, an economy based on free competition and private property. Third, integrity, in the sense of territorial integrity of the country, which is about social wellbeing of the population and safety of citizens. It is by no means an idle question and President Putin having launched the reforms that we are criticizing -- and I also totally disagree with his answers -- has actually provided a very clear answer to the question.
Of the five parameters that underpin modern democracy, the market economy, what we call the civilized world, he quite clearly singled out two that he needs desperately. This are unity, territorial integrity of the country and the safety of the population while he put all the other parameters in second place. He has made his priorities clear in that sense.
The central problem of the civil society in the country, and indeed, the problem of many people for whom I have a high regard and who are gathered here, is that we will have to determine our priorities with the utmost clarity and work out an alternative strategy. The Kremlin, the authorities have identified their strategy, it has articulated it and it is implementing it. Unfortunately, we have much less to show for us in that area because we have very different visions of strategy and I will speak about it at some length.
I will briefly go over the concrete proposals regarding the reform of the power structure and what, I think, should be added, without providing supporting arguments. Of course, the decision to have governors appointed rather than elected fits into the same strategy: the country's unity is above democracy, and I cannot go along with that, just like all those present. The new proposals regarding control over the judiciary system that the Federation Council has introduced into parliament is an absolute monstrosity.
There is another topic that has also been articulated and I think it is absolutely correct and that is the introduction of the proportional system of elections to the State Duma. If this is seen as a measure to strengthen the vertical power structure, it is a bad thing. But in the context of attempts to preserve the unity of the country in the conditions of people's rule and democracy, I am afraid this is the only option.
What else should be done? Elections of the Federation Council, that's an absolutely banal thing. We've been mooting this topic for years, but it is high time we did something about it. By the way, I understand that a law to the effect is pending before the Duma. For all my dislike, shared by many, of the Kozak reforms regarding local government, it would be a good thing if these reforms were now implemented. If the mayors and heads of regions were elected. At this stage that already would be a good thing.
And I would like to say one more thing. I think that to try to preserve all these five parameters I have mentioned, including security, democracy and territorial integrity of the country, etc., is hardly a possible task in the current situation. So, what is needed is a clearly written procedure that is quite understandable and transparent, a procedure for excluding some regions from Russia.
Make a note of this: not secession from Russia at the request of its people to exercise the right of every people to self- determination and all the rest of it, there should be a procedure for ejecting from the country some territories which are unwilling or unable to live according to the rules which all the others have adopted. It may sound an odd thought, but having such a procedure is better than not having it and attempting to maintain territorial integrity at all costs.
For instance, if we seriously say that at a certain stage the problem of security, while preserving democracy, can be solved only at the cost of distancing ourselves from some rebel territories, it would be a good thing if such a procedure existed. Then it wouldn't look like a victory of those who have advocated separation from Russia, but rather like a punishment.
I think this is a thought to be pondered. Honestly I know of no precedents in world politics, but it looks an interesting option to me.
Now about an alternative strategy and all the talk that surrounds it. Two questions suggest themselves. First, who could write the strategy, how to form the circle of people who discuss it, adopt it and legitimize it? And the second question is how and what actions should be taken to initiate a public discussion of it.
Just a couple of words. Actually, our country is close to the point where the Byelorussia scenario is becoming very real when there is Lukashenko and all the rest: the left and the right, the reds and the whites. They set up a "five plus" coalition there. Actually we are moving in that direction. For all the fundamental difference between my position as the head of the Union of Right Forces and the position of the Communist Party of the Russian Federation or Motherland on basic issues nevertheless I have a feeling that we may all find ourselves in the same boat. Because the question arises what values, what hierarchy of values may be important, what can be the basis on which not only SPS and Yabloko - - the parties closest to each other who haven't been able to come to terms all these years -- but a broader coalition could interact.
I think the fundamental issues of the hierarchy of five values which I have mentioned that can bring all these forces together are democracy and people's rule, that's one; political competition, that's number two. We are different, we are rivals, but we will unite so that there should be political competition in the country. And number three is civil freedoms. This is not a hierarchy in the sense that one is to be put above another. One might as well put civil freedoms first. But these values should be well to the fore.
Let me just explain. We will never come to terms with Motherland over the rule of business in Russian history. Talking about SPS. We will never agree on liberalization, monetization of in- kind social benefits with Motherland or with the Communists. We will never agree on reform of the energy sector, I shudder even to talk about it, and in general about reforms in the country with the Communists, whether the reforms are right or not right. But there are things that are more relevant today than these important but secondary differences.
So, I would just urge all those who now -- there are a lot of initiatives, I have been receiving a lot of declarations to sign, I sign some of them but not others. With some I fully agree with the exception of two or three paragraphs -- they begin by saying that Putin is curtailing democracy, I agree, this should be resisted. I agree. And then I am startled to read that all this is the consequence of Gaidar's anti-people reforms and so on. Well, I can't subscribe to that, and why write about it?
Now about the forum and what it can produce if we agree on the composition of this coalition and get the priorities right. Very briefly: first, obviously there is a need for an all-Russia forum, a place where all the good people could assemble. We should prepare it, set up an organizing committee and so on. Secondly, we should prepare a conceptual response, we should prepare our response to the challenges facing Russia in the 21st century. It can take the shape of a bill of rights or some other shape, a set of thesis subscribed to by representatives of the bulk of the political elite, business, the media community and so on. A kind of catechism which could be the starting point for doing something.
In the purely political sphere, I will say just two things. First, it is necessary to weaken United Russia in every way, everywhere. We have done a good job of it in the Tula region elections where SPS doubled its vote and United Russia's vote was cut by half compared with the Duma elections. We should indicate simply that such a party does not exist. This will bring home to the Kremlin the implications of what it is doing and besides, it may split the bureaucracy as a class. The technology is simple. Everyone should unite in regional elections not stopping short of putting up common lists of candidates. Elections in the regions are very tell- tale at present and in all elections in all the districts we should field common candidates.
SPS is setting a very challenging positive example: in the district and in Moscow we will back Sergei Mitrokhin, I think. SPS takes it very seriously. We will hold a meeting of the political council on Thursday, next Thursday, and I hope that a decision will be taken.
And the last thing I wanted to say is we should provoke the authorities into having open public debates. How? I don't know. Maybe collect 100,000 signatures asking the President to go live on the air not only with his address, but having a discussion with the people whom we have with us here. I am absolutely sure that Volodya Ryzhkov and especially after the program "K Barieru" Satarov can be more than a match in an intellectual debate not only for poor Tkachev but for the Guarantor of the Constitution.