"Private views"A Series of Interviews

Posted in Russia | 18-May-06 | Author: Dmitry Udalov

Nikita Belyh - SPS (Union of Right Forces) leader interviewed by Dmitry Udalov: "The Russian opposition is essential for the…
Nikita Belyh - SPS (Union of Right Forces) leader interviewed by Dmitry Udalov: "The Russian opposition is essential for the development of the country."
WSN editor for Russia, Dmitry Udalov, conducted a series of interviews with the current leader of the SPS Party, Nikita Belyh, Kara-Murza, one of the brightest party intellectuals and Maria Gaidar – first Russian Prime Minister Egor Gaidar’s daughter and one of the most active representatives of Russian democratic youth.

The Union of Right Forces - otherwise know as the SPS - is a liberal party that is ideologically close to the US republicans and British conservatives. Its representatives Gaidar, Chubais and Nemtsov were the pioneers of Russian democratic reforms. But in the election held in 2003, the party failed to be reelected to the State Duma. Thus, the SPS is one of the main opposition forces in modern Russia.

WSN: What is in your opinion the role of the Russian opposition today?

Nikita Belyh: The Russian opposition is essential for the development of the country. Unfortunately, Russian authorities underestimate the role of the opposition as we can see by the fact that they do not understand why our position and our views should be taken into account.

WSN: How would you describe the political situation among Russian parties today?

NB: Today, we witness political parties seeking an ideology. All parties except communists and us are searching for an ideology. The ruling party is not an exception, as its present ideology is contradictory and baseless. We have our strong goals of democracy and liberalism and we’re ready to defend them.

WSN: Do you believe that the rest of the society shares your goals? In 2003, the SPS failed to be elected to the Russian Parliament.

NB: We do realize that democratic and liberal ideas were largely discredited in the 1990s and these ideas are in urgent need of rehabilitation. Liberal ideology believes in addressing Russia’s problems and providing efficient solutions. Only in this way will we be able to restore public support. Traditionally, there is also a problem of misunderstanding between our party leaders and scholars and the rest of the society. Liberal rhetoric seems too esoteric not only for the average Russian citizen, but even for intellectuals. Other parties usually use the simplest, almost archaic mottos and labels that are easily understood by the majority. We do not want to descend to this lowest level, but at the same time we develop more comprehensive and understandable ways of attracting people. So our efforts in the near future should concentrate on maximum understandability.

WSN: Though you are a leader of the Union of Right Forces, not all democratic parties like Yabloko joined your union. Why? The dissociation of the liberal opposition is one of the main reasons for its weakness.

NB: Well, I agree it is difficult to achieve unity in the liberal camp as we all support diferent dimensions of liberalism and sometimes our patterns differ significuntly. In general, our position is very common.

Members of the SPS march in front of Lubyanka – FSB (KGB) HQ on May 1, 2006
Members of the SPS march in front of Lubyanka – FSB (KGB) HQ on May 1, 2006
So we try to draw the right conclusions from past failures. For example in the December 4th elections, the United Democratic List, comprised of the Union of Right Forces and Yabloko received over 11% of the vote and won seats in the Moscow City Duma.

I also expect I’ll make all Russian people who are democratically-oriented happy very soon, as we are expected to reach a breakthrough with Grigory Yavlinsky.

I wouldn’t like to give any other comments now, but I assure you we are working hard to find a consensus and unite the Russian liberal opposition. We still have 1 1/2 years until the 2007 legislative elections.

WSN: What are the major shortcomings of the current system? What trends in modern Russian politics will you not tolerate?

Kara-Murza: the most dangerous trend and the greatest menace to Russia is corruption. We witness how the state merges with business. Corruption has seized all fields and levels of the economy. We believe that the present regime has proven to be incapable of fighting corruption and red tape. The system that has been built only fuels it. The country needs not to be bribed but reformed.

We see that business is withdrawing from politics as an independent force and as a result, politics is monopolized by bureaucracy. We find it our main objective to defend business interests.

WSN: But don’t you find that it will alienate other social groups if you are eager to support business so much?

Kara-Murza: It has always been a common perception in Russia that only the rights of the labor class should be protected. Moreover – only the labor class is the driving force of the economy according to public opinion. We believe there are many other professions that contribute greatly to the development of society like: Managers, businessmen, individual farmers, private entrepreneurs, scientists, intellectuals, art and cultural workers. We defend their rights and their private initiative because the present state fails to do this effectively. I’m sure that it is precisely these people who will be able to restore our country and promote its development. I’m sure it will be only them and youth! They will determine Russia’s development in the 21st Century.

Maria Gaidar – first Russian Prime Minister's daughter: "To attract youth into politics is a huge challenge"
Maria Gaidar – first Russian Prime Minister's daughter: "To attract youth into politics is a huge challenge"
WSN: What is in your mind the role of democratic youth in Russian politics?

Maria Gaidar: First of all, to attract youth into politics is a huge challenge. A great number of Russian citizens including young people don’t care about politics at all. Those who support liberal ideas today are sometimes considered outcasts, as they don’t follow the government course. So I should admit we are few, but we are determined to work hard to defend our democratic virtues. And though we are few I’d like to point out the positive dynamic of our growth. Today we see more youth protests and campaigns than two years ago. Youth should be entitled to uphold their right to a future, to opportunity, to free choice and defend these rights.

I would also point out that while we may witness a radicalization of the youth movements of other political parties, our idea of political activism for young people is strictly non-violent. It is based on intellect and respect for human individuals.

WSN: So what are the concrete goals being pursued by Russian democratic youth?

Maria Gaidar: Well, these are common democratic values, but more precisely we defend private and small business rights so that youth are able to start up their own businesses to develop their talents; nowadays, corruption and red tape have almost oppressed small business - especially youth business initiatives.

Youth is concerned with the problem of obligatory military service. We support the idea of a professional army and oppose an obligatory draft. And so long as military service is obligatory, we will do everything possible to guarantee the rights of conscripts.

We oppose corruption and especially corruption in higher educational establishments. We launched a number of student actions to monitor and contain corruption.

We are for a transparent law enforcement system, free of red tape and corruption. We support law enforcement that really protects citizens' rights

And in general, we support open and free political dialog between all parties and groups. This is a key element of democracy we want to build upon.