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Moscow News
December 1-7, 2004
Political Opposition Poised To Hit Radar Screen
By Valery Vyzhutovich

On December 12, a Civic Congress of political parties and movements opposed to President Putin's policies is to be held in Moscow. Politicians unite in the fight for democracy

According to its initiators, the Civic Congress was conceived "not just as a venue to cry on each other's shoulder, but to consolidate efforts for joint action." Vladimir RYZHKOV, an independent deputy of the RF State Duma and one of the Congress organizers, talks about how they are going to do this.

- There has been no indication of mass protests against the Russian ruling authorities. What kind of people are you going to unite and where are you going to lead them? Are you sure that your objectives are realistic?

The main and, I am sure, quite realistic objective of the Congress is to show that there is civil society in Russia that is capable of self-organization in the face of a common danger.

Exactly what is this danger?

The rolling back of democracy. Curtailment of civic rights and freedoms. The revival of censorship. The omnipotence of bureaucracy. Endemic corruption. The lack of free and fair elections.

What sections of society is the Congress going to represent? On whose behalf does it speak?

Congress co-chairs are Lyudmila Alekseeva and Georgy Satarov. Lyudmila Alekseeva is a veteran leader of the human rights movement. Georgy Satarov is the president of the INDEM foundation and a former Yeltsin aide. We see this as highly symbolic - dissidents of the 1960s side by side with reformers of the 1990s. Two generations acting in defense of two basic values - democracy and civil society. Satarov epitomizes democracy while Alekseeva personifies civil society. More specifically, four sections of civil society will be represented at the Congress: independent political forces, non-governmental organizations, journalists, and business.


Yes - imagine, there are some courageous people within the business community. They will take part in our congress - quite openly, too. But they represent of course not big but small and medium sized businesses.

How are you going to get leftists and rightists and Communists and liberals together in one room?

Of course, there is some tension between political parties. But they are united by their strong opposition to the course pursued by the ruling authorities.

Do you expect the Union of Right Forces (SPS) and the Communist Party of the Russian Federation (CPRF) to join ranks?

Difficult to say at this stage. Not everyone understands yet that a new reality has evolved in Russia that should be reckoned with. Surely you will agree that it is one thing to compete on the political scene in a democratic environment, as was the case, for example, in the 1990s, and quite another, to compete against the ruling authorities that are rolling back democratic freedoms. So there is a common task - to counter dictatorship. Once we have made sure that democracy is back again, normal competition between the parties will resume. In this context, Gennady Zyuganov has been making some noteworthy statements. He says, in particular, that now is not the time for a socialist revolution, but for a bourgeois-democratic revolution. This recalls the pre-1917 situation in Russia, when the Bolsheviks collaborated with the liberals in fighting for democracy.

What documents is the Congress going to adopt?

It will adopt a statement on the situation in the country, expressing our position on the Kremlin's political course. There are plans to develop cross-party cooperation projects - e.g., in election monitoring. Furthermore, we intend to create an All-Russia Action Committee - a permanent coordination agency synchronizing our joint efforts.

Could the Congress serve as a platform for an opposition coalition in the next parliamentary election campaign?

It would be premature to view the Congress from this perspective. None of us aspire to transform the opposition movement into something like a national front, nominating single candidates. I for one do not think that the time is ripe for this yet.