There is certain confusion in the heads of Russian liberals. They seem to make no distinction between two similar, yet not identical things: being a "liberal" and being a "liberal politician." But there is a difference. Being a liberal means holding a set of liberal views: respect for individual liberties and private property, personal responsibility and economic self-sufficiency, support of the idea of limited government, etc. But being a liberal politician means all of the above AND the ability to formulate and implement effective liberal policies at all levels of government.
I trust that the authors of the manifesto "The Power is Us" offered by the Right Cause party as a platform for the upcoming Duma election, are liberals. Otherwise, how would one explain their claim that "Russia can and should become the freest country in the world?" And: "The XXI [century] must become the century of Russian freedom." Beyond that, there are not many liberal views expressed in the manifesto. For example, I see nothing particularly liberal in the demand of a free universal health care. Nor do I consider the idea of transforming the Presidential Administration into an "all-state organ for strategic planning"as something outright liberal. Yes, limiting state ownership in mass media — as suggested in the manifesto — is liberal, but freezing tariffs of state monopolies for 5 years is not — and the manifesto is suspiciously mum on the larger question of whether Russia needs state monopolies in the first place. Equally stunning is the fact that the word "privatization" hasn't appeared in the text even in passing.
And although the authors of the manifesto still might be liberal, liberal politicians they are not: the manifesto doesn't articulate any single, coherent liberal policy the Right Cause — or anyone, for that matter — would implement to address the country's most pressing needs. Sure, a two-fold reduction in the number of state bureaucrats, as the manifesto proposes, would be nice. But before you reduce the headcount you have to reduce the number of specific activities these people perform; yet the manifesto says absolutely nothing about which government functions, which specific roles the state plays in regulating economic and social life must be cut. Sure, a constitutional limit to the number of seats any political party can hold in the Duma (at 226) could help promote political pluralism. (Although as a liberal myself, I'd prefer that that the composition of the parliament was determined by the political will of Russian votes expressed in free and fair elections.) Yet at the same time, the manifesto calls for return to the Duma of 25% deputies elected in single-mandate districts. Do the Right Cause ideologists not now that the United Russia party usually sweeps single-mandate elections? Granted, it's a good idea to eliminate taxes on what the manifesto calls the "newly created sectors of new economy." The question is: which sectors precisely should be tax exempt — and how does one make sure that these tax benefits won't be highjacked by the state-owned behemoths like Gazprom and Rosneft?
There is one thing the manifesto gets right: the need to allocate more power and more money to local governments. But it says nothing about how one ensures that this power and this money will be properly used by notoriously inefficient and corrupt local bureaucrats. Perhaps, the Right Cause is planning to actively participate in local elections to make real changes in the regions? Hardly. Nothing less than the State Duma seems to be of interest to the newly-minted defenders of municipal rights.
True, we're told that the current manifesto is only a draft, a version 1.0 of the party's electoral program and that an improved version 2.0 will soon be presented to the public. It'd better be good: the Duma election is only 3 month away, and there will be no time for a version 3.0.