Questions of PRAVDA.Ru correspondent are being answered by Andrei Klimov, State Duma deputy, member of Federation and Regional Policy Committee, deputy leader of Regions of Russia deputy group.
Q. Andrei, in your opinion, does the power pay attention today to what happens in the regions?
A. Any power pays and will always pay attention to it. It is a norm. Another thing, whether this attention is rapt or not, at what this attention is aimed concretely and what are the results of it. In my view, effectiveness of regional policy is not high enough. Because we try to solve questions mainly through command way today, though they should not be solved so in a federative state. If we consider Russia to be a federative state, we should take into account the processes that go on in the regions and not try to settle all troubles on the level of administrative vertical. Because administrative vertical is a sign of unitary state. It is the same command system our life made us refuse from. Experience of big countries – the USA, Germany, India etc. shows that federative system allows to more effectively solve state problems in general and in separate regions. In other words, we try to realize old management models under new titles. Earlier, when we had centralized planned economical management, the whole development of the country was designed in the capital. In Moscow, they could see better, how many two-flat houses should be in a small settlement situated at a distance of 3,000 km from Moscow. The party gave common ideological directions on all questions, including building. Today, we gave it up, though separate decisions of the State Duma and of the Government seem not to take into account the fact that subjects of federation have right to pass their own laws and to solve some questions, and this right is fixed in the Constitution. For example, our electoral legislation. Instead passing a frame law regulating strategic questions, we write in detail how many people must participate in the election in the subjects of federation, how many rounds must be carried out and how many times a governor could be elected. It would be more correctly now to say, that subjects of federation have no right to pass their own laws and this to be done by the State Duma. As it was before 1993, when territories did not have their legislation. Today, this right seems to exist, though the Federation regulates this right more and more, introduces some details, inserts many amendments. We try to react to a certain event in a certain region, while forgetting that in another region this event could have another meaning. Therefore, we try to settle all problems of the big multinational country acting from the single centre. It cannot be effective.
Q. We know that people were often chosen according to their personal devotion. Many regional “kings” are often connected with some functionaries in Moscow. Probably, namely this is corruption…
A. I want to divide these two issues. First, not all decisions are wrong and corrupted. All corrupted decisions became obvious sooner than others. For, if a decision is right, it balances interests of the sides and we do not notice it, as we do not notice air we breath. We can only feel lack of air, for example in a submarine or in mountains. As for corruption, it does exist. Moreover, the more all decisions are centralized, the more often regional functionaries, businessmen and average citizens will search for their people in Moscow. They will feed these people. This event is a result of centralization. People understand that if final decision is taken in Moscow, they should search for contacts, for their people in the capital. Therefore, many subjects of legal relations start to contact the centre and to ruin in this way normal passing of a problem. Q. What do you think could be done here?
A. As for legislation, I would develop principles of federative system of our state, when federal bodies, state bodies and local bodies have their own jurisdiction. If we do not think that there is a supreme organization, we will more easily build the system of relations in our country. It will be balanced. What is good for Chukotka, is not always good for Kaliningrad region. Everything should be settled on the spot. We must create such laws that can protect people in the regions from local “kings.” In our big country, living on the lines, living according to a formalized scheme could lead us to a deadlock. We must have a united administrative space, a common idea of human rights. Though concrete management of concrete territories must depend on geographical, historical, economical and even on social and psychological peculiarities, but not on the will of central staff functionaries.
Q. If a great corruption scandal takes place in a region. Should the local authorities settle this case on themselves, or they should co-ordinate with the centre?
A. If people in the region know that the question will be solved on the spot and according to the main procedure, Moscow functionaries are not necessary there to resolve the question. The power system should be organized in this way.
Q. Do you think that the seven representatives of the President in the districts could help in taking final decisions on the spots?
A. Representatives of the President observe keeping decisions of the President, but not of governors and mayor’s directives. They have another task: to reduce distance from the President to certain territories.
Q. In your opinion, to whom the governors should submit?
A. Governors, mayors and the President should submit only to their electorate. Otherwise, that will be not a democratic state, but an administratively controlled territory. There is a suggestion: we elect a president, and he appoints all functionaries. In this case, the power and the people will be remote from each other, and there will be a great amount of different barriers. Today, a citizen cannot account on being received by the President. He voted for him in the election, and it is the only way for him to express his position. Or, this citizen could elect his bodies with their jurisdiction and he can contact these bodies any day he wishes. He lives near them and he can influence and contact them. People who live in little towns know what happens around. It is only too difficult from Moscow to keep an eye on everything. But in a little town, nothing could be hidden. And local population quickly react on everything. And if we have one elected and all the more “lifelong” president, we have only to pray Got for adequate people to be in power. Once we had Nikita Khruschev, who decided to present Crimea to Ukraine. However, at that time the decision was taken by the leader of collective mind (the collective mind was the Communist Party). Yes, we had such a structure for a long time. We lived in Russian Empire, however in its last years, there were Zemstvo, Assembly of Nobles and some other elected institutions which softened the situation. Finland, Poland had special statuses, what gave them opportunities for self-government. To be short, in Russian Empire, spite that was a monarchy, many questions were solved taking into account territorial peculiarities.
Q. Are you not afraid that regional associations, if they get power, will abuse their position?
A. But there is a counterbalance: the President with his wide authority, elected by the whole country. All regions are represented in the Duma. If the President is not right, his authority is restricted by the parliament, Federation Council, Constitutional Court. There is no man who is always right. Only God is always right, because he sees everything.
Q. Does the President now acts correctly?
A. The question is whether the society can restrict the president’s mistakes or not. The president’s mistake could result in national catastrophes, while the Constitution should contain protection from these consequences.
Andrei Klimov was interviewed by Ilya Tarasov PRAVDA.Ru
Translated by Vera Solovieva
Read the original in Russian: http://www.pravda.ru/main/2002/03/04/37839.html