An interview with Communist leader Gennadi Zyuganov By Anatoly Kostyukov September 29, 2003.
[An interview with Gennadi Zyuganov about the prospects and hopes of the Communist Party in the elections. He criticizes the United Russia party and the state's overt support for it. He adds regional leaders who have switched from the Communists to United Russia are being taken for a ride.]
Within days, the Prosecutor General's Office and the Central Electoral Commission (CEC) are expected to reply to an inquiry submitted by Gennadi Zyuganov, leader of the Communist Party (CPRF), in which he demanded to have President Putin fined for illegal campaigning in favor of United Russia. In this interview, Gennadi Zyuganov makes it clear that the Communists intend to use all available methods to combat unlawful use of state resources during the election campaign.
Question: I would like to understand why Putin's speech at the congress of United Russia annoyed you. The president has never concealed that United Russia is a pro-Kremlin party, nor that he likes and values it. Was his appearance at the congress a real surprise for the voters? Gennadi Zyuganov: I don't care how strong his love for this party is, or why he values it. What's outrageous is the cynicism with which someone who claims to be the guarantor of the Constitution and urges all of us to abide by the law is setting an example of lawlessness. He had recently been telling Veshnyakov (chairman of the Central Electoral Commission - Nezavisimaya Gazeta) to keep a close eye on the election campaign; Veshnyakov invited participants in the elections to sign an agreement not to use dirty campaign tactics, and we did that. But then our guarantor of the Constitution speaks at a party congress - ignoring all these agreements. What's more, there were dozens of regional leaders present at the congress. For them, this presidential statement is a direct command: any violations of the law are permissible for the sake of ensuring the ruling party's victory. What conclusion do you think prosecutors, judges and electoral commissions are supposed to arrive at? Question: Those three dozen governors weren't just present at the congress - the congress included them on the electoral list of United Russia. For some reason, your inquiry isn't reflecting this point, although governors are Category A state officials, who are forbidden by law to express any electoral preferences. Gennadi Zyuganov: Two federal ministers are at the top of United Russia's list - Gryzlov and Shoigu. So what do we want with the governors? If the president and the ministers are allowed to ignore the law, there's no need to hold the governors accountable for doing so. I didn't mention this violation in my inquiry only because I know the situation in which regional leaders are placed. They are dependent. They were told: you must head the regional lists of United Russia - and they followed orders. Every region has many problems. The latest bill on distribution of powers gives them 43 more functions, but no extra funding. Being financially dependent on the federal government to that extent, few governors will refuse to carry out an order from their Kremlin superiors. Question: However, there are also the "red" governors. What has prevented you from using them to strengthen the CPRF's electoral ranks? Gennadi Zyuganov: We are a law-abiding party. We had Vasily Starodubtsev on our electoral lists in the last elections, but we included him as leader of the agroindustrial union - a public organization allied with the CPRF - rather than as a governor. The governors whom United Russia is proposing are only representing regional authorities. They play the role of a mere administrative tool for this party and nothing more. None of them is willing to work and won't actually be working at the Duma; all of them are dummy candidates. The direct delusion of the electorate is evident. The people will be voting in favor of some persons whereas other people will get mandates of deputies. Apparently founders of United Russia are facing severe hardships if they have dared such a forgery. They were building this party for four years without a break and when the time of elections is imminent it turned out that there's nobody to be included onto the electoral lists and, consequently, governors must quickly be employed, as if we have nothing else to do - the harvest has been gathered, public utilities have been prepared for winter, wages and grants have been paid... Question: How did you feel when you saw names of Tuleyev, Khodyrev, Tkachev, Stroyev - regional leaders who had been elected with the CPRF's support, and had previously been members of the Communist Party - on the electoral lists of United Russia? Gennadi Zyuganov: I feel sorry for respectable people who permit themselves to be made fools of and do not resist. I think they've substantially damaged their reputation in the eyes of voters. Kuban, the land of Cossacks, is most unlikely to forgive Tkachev for this deed: the Cossacks do not forgive betrayal. I'm certain the residents of Nizhny Novgorod won't re-elect Khodyrev either. Question: Could it be good that the ruling party is not disguising itself, but is openly saying to all citizens: yes, we are the party of the ruling bureaucracy and you'll have to take us as such? This is at least fair. Gennadi Zyuganov: This would be fair if this party were fighting for voter support on equal terms with others. Let's arrange the elections as a competition of programs and teams of parties, give the citizens an opportunity to listen top all contenders and make our judgments whom and which program they'll choose. These would be real elections. Nowadays, Russians are only shown the only party; all media agencies, all executive structures are working for it. It has unlimited budget; courts and electoral commissions are defending its interests... Undoubtedly, the electorate sees it's been played with, that results of voting are being manipulated, but what they can offer instead? They would sooner "vote with their legs" or against all candidates, as in St. Petersburg. The people have no faith in the elections, while the authorities pretend everything is perfect, that democracy has been expanding and flourishing. Question: The CPRF's electoral list has also provoked many questions. Of 18 candidates at the head of the list, only seven are CPRF members. It appears that the CPRF has become a mere brand-name. Could this be a sign that communist slogans alone won't enable you to collect many votes? Gennadi Zyuganov: If others besides Communists are gathering under our banner of "Russia, labor, democracy, socialism" - isn't that sufficient evidence that our slogans are attractive? In hard times, the people always go with the strong - those who can save them from impending danger. We are currently facing the threat of losing Russia. Production facilities are deteriorating and breaking down; the national security infrastructure is falling apart; our nation is ageing, on the way to becoming extinct. These processes can only be stopped by means of a broad popular liberation movement. Therefore, we think that CPRF's main task is to unite everybody who values Russia and the fate of their children and grandchildren. Our electoral coalition is based on this platform. Undoubtedly, Federation Council member Nikolai Kondratenko, Academician Zhores Alferov, Agrarian Nikolai Kharitonov, and cosmonaut Svetlana Savitskaya belong to various parties; but all of them are real patriots and associates in this sense. Question: As far as I know, Kondratenko was given a place in the top three of the CPRF's electoral list following prolonged debate. Have you taken him so that Glaziev couldn't win him over, or have you decided to enhance the nationalist line? Gennadi Zyuganov: Kondratenko is indeed very good at knowing the nationalist topic; he has been supporting consolidation of the union of Russia, Belarus, and Ukraine; he is well-known in the "Cossack belt." Moreover, he is a talented leader. Under his rule, the Krasnodar territory which his predecessors had ruined and embezzled to a considerable extent have revived. Residents of Kuban were proud of their governor and heads of the neighboring regions were using his example to learn how to work. Having this person as an associate is an honor to me. Question: Quite possibly, is it not so pleasant to share the same list with Gennadi Semigin, whom you've declared to be a Kremlin's agent? Gennadi Zyuganov: The party congress decided that. Question: Why didn't you say point-blank: either him or me? Gennadi Zyuganov: That was something akin to hysteria. Serious politics won't tolerate such conduct. By the way, the congress delegated to the presidium and plenary session of the CPRF the right of recalling any candidate who violates discipline in the elections from the list and we'll apply this right if necessary. Question: Quite recently you had no rivals in the struggle for the oppositional electorate, while now it will be hard to count your rivals. Could you arrange your rivals by "degree of danger? Gennadi Zyuganov: The main danger is not coming from the people quickly "cooked up" by the Presidential Administration, and not even United Russia. We are more alarmed by abuses committed by state officials, the helpless and docile CEC, and dirty campaign tactics. I think "the alliance of two speakers," Raikov's associates and other "narodniks" will be no problem for the electorate. Question: But there is also Zhirinovsky, whose slogans read: "We stand for the poor. We stand for the Russians." Is this an appeal to your electorate? Gennadi Zyuganov: Hardly likely. Firstly, not all Russians are poor - some have made quite a lot of money during the so-called reforms. Secondly, during my time in the Duma, I cannot recall a single instance when Zhirinovsky voted either for the poor or in favor of the Russians. Question: However, both of the above categories support him in the elections. Why? Gennadi Zyuganov: Our society is seriously ill. Millions of people have fallen out of a normal social environment. Up to 15% of the population have mental disorders. Unfortunately, Zhirinovsky has an electorate. It is an open secret that the regime helps him to stay afloat, since he is useful to it. Question: How will the CPRF behave in relation to the Glaziev- Rogozin bloc? Glaziev is likely to be sincere in saying that he has no intention of competing with the Communist Party. Moreover, he hopes for cooperation. Is this possible for you? Gennadi Zyuganov: We have only heard words, but seen no deeds, or deeds conflicting with words. First we'll see how this bloc will behave in a real campaign battle, and then decide what our attitude will be. Question: Will the Communists support Glaziev's candidacy if after the elections the president proposes to nominate him for the post of prime minister? Gennadi Zyuganov: I don't want to anticipate events. I can only say one thing: we are in favor of a responsible government, formed on the basis of the majority in the parliament, and accountable for its actions to the Duma. Question: You won't discard this idea even if United Russia and its allies once again have the majority in the Duma? Gennadi Zyuganov: I hope that won't happen. I have faith in the wisdom of my people... I think common sense will win.
Translated by Andrei Ryabochkin.
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