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Monday, 27 March, 2000, 16:36 GMT 17:36 UK
Russia's vote: Issues and manifestos
As campaigning for the Russian presidential election got underway, the 12 candidates began setting out their main policies and priorities. BBC Monitoring compared their positions on four key issues: The economy, corruption, the war in Chechnya and relations with the West.
All the candidates agree on the need for a "stronger state" and measures to boost the economy and stamp out corruption. But specific proposals have been thin on the ground, overshadowed by vague general objectives, personalities and mudslinging.
The front-runner, acting president Vladimir Putin, outlined his general vision for Russia in an open letter to the electorate but has refrained from making detailed pledges or taking part in televised debates.
Some of the marginal candidates, meanwhile, have focused on a single issue or concentrated their efforts on attacking their rivals.
The economy Communist leader Gennadiy Zyuganov has published one of the most detailed manifestos, much of it devoted to the economy.
He has pledged to raise public sector wages, pensions and other social benefits, pay compensation for Soviet-era savings destroyed by inflation, introduce strict price controls on essential foods and commodities and cut utility charges.
"We guarantee the right to constant employment and a decent wage for everyone in two years," he told Radio Rossiya.
He said he would fund the programme by halting the illegal export of capital, nationalising the export of oil and gas, regulating natural monopolies more strictly, introducing a state monopoly on vodka and tobacco and transferring Central Bank profits to the state budget.
He also promised to cut the taxes "stifling our own Russian production" and create conditions in which "honest entrepreneurs will be able to breathe freely".
Like Mr Zyuganov, maverick nationalist Vladimir Zhirinovskiy sees the reintroduction of a monopoly on alcohol and tobacco and a reduction in taxes as essential, and he has also promised to write off the debts of agricultural producers.
Left-wing Kemerovo region governor Aman Tuleyev set out detailed proposals on social welfare reform in his manifesto published in Izvestiya. His programme is more specifically targeted on the most needy than Mr Zyuganov's but his policies on controlling currency flows, capital flight and regulating strategic enterprises are similar to those of the communist leader.
Mr Tuleyev also calls for a review of the privatization of certain enterprises and the right to renationalize companies that systematically break the law.
At the other end of the spectrum, liberal candidate Konstantin Titov - a strong advocate of private ownership of land during his tenure as Samara region governor - views land reform and building a market infrastructure as the top priorities.
"Taxes should be realistically reduced and land should be realistically made to work," he told Centre TV.
Yabloko leader Grigoriy Yavlinskiy has also championed private property and private ownership of land. But he has put more stress on the need to generate employment and build a "socially oriented economy", while former Social Security Minister Ella Pamfilova said she would inject a "human dimension" into politics, listing her priorities as "human dignity, combating poverty and an active social policy".
Mr Putin said he would defend the market against illegal intervention by bureaucrats and criminals and create an honest and efficient private sector. As a starting point, he has advocated "a large-scale inventory of the country".
"We have a very bad idea of what resources we possess today," he said.
He has called for more action to help the poorest in society but not by "inflating our already large" social security budget. He said work was the solution.
"The main reserve here is the new able-bodied population ... young and vigorous people - all those who recognise the real value of work and are able to earn their own living - [they] already know how to save the country from the humiliation of poverty," he said.
Corruption and red tape Mr Putin is not the only candidate to link the country's economic woes with the bloated bureaucracy and to promise measures to combat it. Konstantin Titov has called for the number of civil servants to be reduced and the posts of deputy prime ministers to be abolished, while former Kremlin official Yevgeniy Savostyanov has said his main task is "ensuring that the machinery of state is reformed, to make it slimmer and subordinate to society".
A campaign broadcast for Tuleyev on Russian Public TV showed a cartoon worker taking a hammer to a multi-headed monster with the words "thieves", "bandits", "oligarchs" and "bureaucrats" on its necks. He has proposed removing deputies' immunity to prosecution and a two-year ban on officials moving from senior official to commercial posts.
Gennadiy Zyuganov links corruption with the oligarchs and "party of power" and has pledged to punish those guilty of "plundering the population and the country's assets". He warned in Sovet skaya Rossiya that "a new financial crash" was coming that would lead to "hunger and extinction".
"The desire of oligarchic groups to maintain and strengthen the evil practice of using institutions of power in their own selfish interests ¿ contravenes the most basic principles of democracy and justice, it dooms the country and the people to tyranny, lawlessness, a chronic economic crisis, stagnation and poverty," he said.
He promised extraordinary measures to fight corruption and crime, to "limit the despotism of the president" and restore independent courts.
Suspended Prosecutor-General Yuriy Skuratov, running under the slogan "Make Power Abide by the Law", has pledged to create "truly independent prosecution and judicial systems" and to reveal specific cases of high-level corruption.
"I will certainly speak about corruption in Russia during this campaign. I will speak about specific issues and specific personalities linked to corruption. It will happen," he told NTV.
Vladimir Zhirinovskiy, meanwhile, included the re-establishment of the KGB as an instrument to fight crime and corruption among his 10 priorities.
Chechnya The acting president has linked the fight against crime with the military campaign in Chechnya, the main source of his appeal to Russian voters.
In an open letter Mr Putin said: "Gangsterism has grown stronger, has penetrated the cities and villages, taking root everywhere. It has got to the point where an entire republic, a federation component - Chechnya - has been occupied by the criminal world and turned into a fortress.
"But we only had to enter into a direct battle with the bandits and defeat them for a real step to be taken towards the supremacy of law, toward the dictatorship of a law equal for all ¿ a terrible blow has been struck against the world of gangsterism."
Most candidates have been avoiding criticism of the campaign in Chechnya and agree the military operation must be completed, but several have called for more emphasis to be placed on finding a political settlement and drawing up a reconstruction programme.
Speaking on Russian TV, Mr Zyuganov blamed the Chechen conflict on Boris Yeltsin's 1994 administration but added: "There is no realistic programme ¿ They are doing nothing to map out at least a plan for rebuilding the petrochemical industry or the construction industry."
Mr Yavlinskiy - earlier a key critic of the military action - has drafted a settlement plan that sees the creation of three security zones in Chechnya with different policies towards each.
On NTV he said he favoured: "announcing a state of emergency in areas where there is no self-government and creating defence facilities to divide the mountainous areas from the central ones, as well as along the whole Chechen Border - that is to say, two defensive circles".
Even the ethnic Chechen presidential candidate, Moscow businessman Umar Dzhabrailov, told Russian TV he supported the "counter-terrorist operation"
"There is no war against the Chechen people," he said. "There is a desire to destroy possible terrorists.
"I am unequivocal on this: we should never have allowed the terrorists to gain a hold and then there would have been no need to kill people."
Ella Pamfilova - the only female candidate in the race - probably summed up the views of the majority when she told Russian Public TV: "It is pointless to argue whether we should continue combat operations or not. The military operation must consistently be brought to completion."
But she added: "Partisan warfare is inevitable and we must be ready for the North Caucasus to remain a gaping, bloody wound on the body of Russia for many decades to come."
She called for better provisioning of the army, describing the current system as one "that makes it possible to steal huge amounts", and for the establishment of a "comprehensive system of rehabilitation for the lads returning from war".
Relations with the West
Mr Putin's declaration on the BBC's Breakfast with Frost that he would not rule out the possibility of Nato membership for Russia prompted a discussion of foreign policy in a campaign that has otherwise been dominated by domestic issues.
Liberals Titov and Savostyanov both spoke in favour of increased cooperation with the West, calling for a return to the degree of cooperation that existed before the Kosovo crisis soured relations.
But candidates from the left-wing nationalist opposition, who advocate closer ties with former Soviet republics first and foremost, reacted angrily.
"It's a betrayal of all those who died on battlefields, it's a challenge to Beijing, Delhi and the entire Muslim world," said Mr Zyuganov. "It's not simply stupidity, it's a crime against our nation and our entire history.
"It's a path towards servicing big capital by military means ... It spells the final collapse of the military industrial complex, a betrayal of all our Yugoslav friends."
Mr Tuleyev told NTV: "If the USA, and the USA is Nato, says that the North Caucasus, our crude oil is an area where it has vital interests, what kind of rapprochement can we speak of? After what happened in Yugoslavia, in Kosovo, what kind of rapprochement and partnership can we speak of?"
Vladimir Zhirinovskiy has said Russian foreign policy should be "extremely egotistic", and build partnerships with Iraq, Serbia, Libya. Iran, Armenia and Belarus.
Source: BBC Monitoring Caversham 8 Mar 00
BBC Monitoring (http://www.monitor.bbc.co.uk), based in Caversham in southern England, selects and translates information from radio, television, press, news agencies and the Internet from 150 countries in more than 70 languages.
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