by Sarah Hurst
Alexei Navalny has announced his manifesto for the Russian presidential election, scheduled for March 18 – from which he is still banned because of a conviction on fabricated charges. He launched the manifesto with a series of short videos drawing attention to the problems in sectors such as healthcare, education and small business. The main point that Navalny makes is that he would be able to increase government spending in many areas by eliminating corruption. He estimates that the state is stealing 5 trillion roubles a year, based on his investigations of state companies and top officials like Prime Minister Dmitri Medvedev.
Vladimir Putin says there is no additional money for science, but Navalny pointed out that the government currently spends 106 billion roubles a year on science but 120 billion on state propaganda such as RT. Navalny would stop spending on propaganda, he said. He would also make the minimum wage 25,000 roubles a month ($424), up from 7,500 now ($127).
Navalny would not cut defence spending, but he would reallocate the funds to increase the wages of military personnel and create a professional army, rather than one that depends on reluctant conscripts. Presumably Navalny’s plan to stop waging war in Ukraine and Syria would also save a considerable chunk of money if implemented.
Teachers struggling to get by
In a video titled “No salary less than 25,000 roubles” Navalny featured 34-year-old Nikolai Kudryavtsev, a history teacher at a boarding school for the hard of hearing in Yaroslavl Oblast, who earns 14,800 roubles a month ($251). Kudryavtsev works time-and-a-half and lives with his 90-year-old grandmother and 10-year-old son. “The whole of Russia is a country of Nikolai Kudryavtsevs, who live exactly like this,” Navalny said.
Despite the fact that Kudryavtsev’s salary isn’t enough to live on and he has to do extra work on the side, he says that he loves teaching because he feels he’s doing something socially useful. “I want to bring up people who are able to defend their point of view if they think they’re right, and don’t say that black is white,” he said.
War on bureaucracy
Navalny’s other videos published today include “War on paperwork and bureaucracy” – featuring a doctor who is overwhelmed by red tape; “Small business is the foundation of the economy”; “The freelancer is not an enemy of the state”; and “Mortgages as in developed countries: 2 percent.”
Presumably launching the manifesto on the eve of Putin’s annual press conference was a deliberate choice. It also takes place on a day when Russia’s censor Roskomnadzor has warned Twitter that it will be blocked in Russia if it doesn’t delete the account of Mikhail Khodorkovsky’s Open Russia organisation within 24 hours. Open Russia’s website has already been blocked in Russia. Navalny tweeted this morning that he didn’t believe Twitter would be blocked, but Putin may be planning to step up his counter-measures ahead of Navalny’s planned protest on December 24 – which the Moscow mayor’s office has already declared to be illegal.
Categories: Campaign diary