The current structure of Russia’s political system is absolutely unacceptable. It is blocking the country’s development and pushing it towards a revolution or catastrophe. We must overhaul our political system in order to create a liberal rightwing party that would be independent of both the external forces and the Russian leadership.
Former Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin has contributed to the general post-election turmoil by saying he may join a new liberal party. Leonid Gozman, Director of Humanitarian Projects at the RUSNANO corporation, President of the Union of Right Forces, talks with valdaiclub.com about the importance of that project and Kudrin as a natural leader of a liberal rightwing party.
Do you think the establishment of a new rightwing party is necessary in the current structure of Russia’s political system?
The current structure of Russia’s political system is absolutely unacceptable. It is blocking the country’s development and pushing it towards a revolution or catastrophe, which is equally disastrous in our case. We must overhaul our political system in order to create a liberal rightwing party that would be independent of both the external forces and the Russian leadership.
The establishment of such a party is especially important in view of the protests that have swept the country. It is obvious that a radical protest party that is taking shape has no clear ideology and is united by two things only: the rejection of the current political system and the demand for honest elections. I think that both these slogans are acceptable, but they are insufficient as a basis for a distinctive program.
I hope Russia will not opt for a catastrophic scenario that rejects the rule of law and that people will uphold the parties that are not only exposing the dirty, amoral and dishonest nature of the current system or demanding guarantees of fundamental political and economic rights, but are also advocating the path of liberal development.
These ideas are nothing new and can be found in a number of texts starting with the New Testament. Using modern terms, apart from the opposition’s unanimous demands of the supremacy of law, honest elections and free press, the new party should also advocate political and economic competition, inviolability of private property, guaranteed independence of courts and a European path of national development.
The current unregistered opposition has elements of classical Western parties, including a socialist party, a rightwing party and a “soft nationalist” party. These political forces can be found in many countries and should be also given a niche in the Russian political system. For example, British Conservative and Labour parties do not dispute the equality of all before law or the need for political competition and courts’ independence.
Who could lead such a party? Is former Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin a suitable candidate?
I have great admiration and respect for Mr. Kudrin. First of all, in the past ten years he has done everything in his power to help Russia emerge from the 2008 global crisis almost unscathed and to ensure that it has a future. Furthermore, he has a trait that is rare among Russian politicians: he is a very decent person. I think he could become a natural leader, uniting part of radically minded people and the part of the establishment that does not want new shocks but is also dissatisfied with the current system.
Many of the top Russian political leaders were part of the system. Mikhail Kasyanov was prime minister, Boris Nemtsov a governor and first deputy prime minister, and Vladimir Ryzhkov was a deputy speaker of the State Duma. I am not saying this is a drawback. On the contrary, the experience of being part of the system is very positive for true politicians: it makes them more responsible and they know what they are talking about.
Alexei Kudrin never helped advance United Russia’s populism and demagoguery, but always contested and resisted them. As a minister, he was considered a reasonable and constructive part of the ruling elite. He has accumulated invaluable experience of a true politician, and his decency is a guarantee that he will not abandon his views after joining the opposition.
Can the new party incorporate such young leaders of unregistered opposition as blogger Alexei Navalny, Solidarity movement leader Ilya Yashin or Yevgenia Chirikova, who led the Protect Khimki Forest rallies?
Russia has entered a transition period. Its political system has become inefficient, but we can hear “drums speak while laws are silent.” Radical politicians and speakers on both sides – the government and the opposition – have advanced to the front stage. I don’t know if radical opposition leaders will be able to join efforts with Alexei Kudrin – I dearly wish that they do. Navalny, Yashin and Chirikova cannot do what Kudrin can and do not understand many of the things Kudrin does. Conversely, Kudrin cannot do what these young radical politicians can, which is why their cooperation would be beneficial.