Prague, May 23 (RFE/RL) - As Russia's presidential elections approach, there is still widespread confusion about the
economic platform of the Communist Party's candidate, Gennady
At a series of separate news conferences in Moscow this week,
Zyuganov and his top economic advisors tried to clear up the
confusion caused by the delayed publication of the Communist Party's
Zyuganov told reporters yesterday that the economic program for his
election could be made public by the end of the week. He gave few
details, but said the platform would include plans to investigate
major cases of privatization that appeared to be "illegal."
Zyuganov's colleagues were a little more specific. The Communist
Party's top economic strategist, Yuri Maslyukov, said most
privatization deals would n-o-t be cancelled, except those secured
through what he termed "threats, bribery and money-laundering." He
promised that the courts, not Zyuganov, would determine whether an
enterprise had been privatized illegally. As he put it: "Our concept
does not forsee any redistribution of property."
Maslyukov, a former head of the Soviet planning agency Gosplan, said he had "cured himself of any nostalgia for Gosplan." However, he went on to map out an economic strategy calling for some state control
over the prices of fuel and other raw materials.
Maslyukov, who chairs the State Duma's economic committee, also
outlined plans to stem the tide of foreign imports as a way of
rescuing domestic industry and stimulating economic growth. He said
trade barriers were needed to protect national industries and to halt
the slide in production.
Another leading economic adviser to the communists, Tatiana
Koryagina, unveiled highlights of Zyuganov's program, which is aimed
at, in her words, "economic growth and growth of national
well-being." She criticized the current government's policy of
fighting inflation, saying it did nothing to stop the fall in
production. She called for state support for the certain sectors,
such as the nuclear industry, agriculture and high-tech firms.
Koryagina also criticized newspapers that have published what
Communists claim are false descriptions of the party's plans for the
Russian economy. The most recent report, by the daily Komsomolskaya
Pravda last week, spoke of price freezes, re-nationalization of
property, and restrictions on foreign travel to halt capital flight.
Both Maslyukov and Koryagina insisted that the Communist Party's
vision of a "mixed" as opposed to a free market economy would protect
private property. But correspondents say their sketchy economic
blueprint did little to calm fears of a return to Soviet-era
shortages and central planning.
The delayed publication of Zyuganov's economic platform has played
into the hands of President Boris Yeltsin, who has portrayed his
chief rival as a candidate who would return Russia to failed policies
of central planning and political repression.
Yeltsin's economic adviser Alexander Livshits sought to capitalize
on voters' fears by warning two days ago that some Russians are
beginning to stockpile food in case of a Zyuganov victory. Livshits
said if the Communists win, the economy could be sustained for only
Zyuganov's often hazy economic vision is partly the result of his
difficulties in forging an alliance of ideas between some 200 groups
allied to the Communist Party. His task is not helped by talkative
hardline colleagues, such as Viktor Anpilov, who heads the Working
Russia Party. Anpilov recently caused a stir by calling for
renationalization of banks and the closing of foreign exchange
businesses to drive the U.S. dollar out of the Russian market.
Zyuganov tried this week to order his troops in line by urging his
supporters to avoid using "scary words." He stressed that the message
should be: "No one is about to confiscate anything, everything will
be done according to law."
Many observers note that the Communist Party leader tends to tailor
his message to his audience. At a gathering of business leaders in
Davos, Switzerland in February, Zyuganov tried to persuade investors
that the communists would bring economic stability and "order." But
when he talks to domestic supporters, he tends to preach economic
nationalism and employ anti-Western rhetoric.
Economic experts say there could an investment boom in Russia if
Yeltsin is re-elected. Russian financial markets have indeed reacted
favorably to recent opinion polls showing Yeltsin's growing
popularity. But investors remain wary of the unknown factors that
would accompany a possible Zyuganov presidency.