Russia still has a long way to go before it can be considered a democracy, said former Russian Deputy Prime Minister Grigory Yavlinsky at the IOP last night.
Yavlinsky is head of the Yabloko Bloc, a democratic reform party. Political pollsters in Russia currently consider him the leading challenger to Boris Yeltsin in the next presidential election, scheduled for 1996.
"We are not yet a democratic country," Yavlinksy told a crowd of over 250 in the ARCO Forum. "We have no machinery for feedback between the power and the people."
"We are half a democracy," Yavlinsky said. "We can say what we want, but it doesn't mean the President will listen. He is doing what he wants."
Yavlinsky said 85 percent of the Russian people are against the war in Chechnya.
Yavlinksy said there is a great need for election reform in his country. "In Russia, you say elections--it means nothing. It is not important who is going to win. It is only important who is going to count," he said.
Yavlinksy said the last presidential elections in Russia ended at 10:00 at night, and Yeltsin was declared the winner in one hour.
"We still have no results today" for that election, Yavlinsky said. "Why until now is no leader of any democratic country sad about this?"
Yavlinsky said that although reform in Russia hasn't been a success, it shouldn't be deemed a failure. In fact, Yavlinsky said the title of his speech, "The Failure of Reform in Russia," was inaccurate.
"Two years ago, in all my lectures here, people were talking about success. Now, without asking me they call it failure. Russia goes back and forth," he said.
Yavlinsky said he was concerned because he believes that President Clinton and other world leaders have assumed that Yeltsin's voice is the voice for the Russian population.
"The enthusiasm people had in 1990 right up until the coup was so positive. The U.S. was talking not only to Soviet leaders, but also to Soviet people." said Yavlinsky. "The relationship between two presidents is a good thing, but the people are more important."
Since many people believe the myth that Russia is a democracy, they compare problems there with problems in countries like the U.S., Yavlinsky said.
Yavlinsky said some people believe that since Russia has a market economy, all thenation has to do is stabilize the economy. Butthere are other issues that must be addressedbefore stabilizing the budget or currency, hesaid.
"We must pass the period of institutionalchanges like property rights, free trade, andeconomic union with the former Soviet Republicfirst," he said.
Yavlinsky said that even though the Russianpeople should address internal problemsthemselves, he hopes Americans won't completelyturn their backs on the country.
He also tried to dispel fears that there isstill anti-U. S. sentiment in Russia. "Don'tbelieve there is anti-American sentiment. In 1990they thought you had a recipe about what we mustdo--no longer," he said.
Yavlinsky said at this point he has definiteplans to run for president.
"I don't want to be in a country where the onlyalternatives to Yeltsin are the fascists and thecommunists," he said to a suddenly applaudingcrowd. "Yeltsin's era is finished.