Intriguing news has been confirmed this morning: multi billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov is interested in becoming the leader of the Right Cause party, the political organization which, in November 2010, called for a second term for President Medvedev. The news must come as a major boost for the President, given that much analysis of recent weeks has focused on Medvedev’s sidelining ahead of the 2012 election and a drive towards the increasing hegemony of Putin and United Russia. Perhaps it simply a coincidence that at a meeting with lawyers on Friday, in which the President expressed concerns about over concentration of power in a lone individual, he also added that, to quote the Moscow Times, ‘a presidential republic is the only form of government fit for the country’, and to do this, ‘the president should become a party member’, which would be an unprecedented move in the country’s post-Soviet existence. The race for the Presidency, it would seem, is far from being a fait accompli. The news does also beg the question, to what does the President owe this boon? Reuters reports:
Prokhorov, ranked by Finans magazine as Russia’s second richest man with a fortune of $22.7 billion, told colleagues in a letter leaked to the newspaper Komsomolskaya Pravda he was ready to lead the Right Cause party.
“If those of us who have the means and the desire to live in Russia do not try to change anything then nothing will change,” it quoted Prokhorov as saying in the letter.
It also quoted Prokhorov as saying his sister, one of his closest advisers, had suggested he enter politics.
Apart from these ostensible motives, the broader question seems to be, why is it that Prokhorov has taken the risky step of defying Putin’s United Russia, when a cursory glance at the Khodorkovksy trial provides ample evidence of the downsides of flouting the Prime Minister’s authority. Perhaps the New Jersey Nets owner believes that the power vertical is not as incontrovertible as Putin would have it. Rumors circulated last summer that Prokhorov had purchased a $600 million villa in thesouth of France, as a potential gift to the Russian Prime Minister. He subsequently re-neged on the purchase, fuelling speculation that to the tycoon’s mind, Putin’s influence was waning.
Added to this, we have the Prime Minister’s legendary disdain towards the oligarchy – one simply has to remember a shamefaced OlegDeripaska having a pen thrown at himin Pikalyovov for evidence of Putin’s bouts of manifest contempt for the business elite. On arecent test drive of Oxenim group’s new electric hybrid vehicle, the Yo-car, the PrimeMinister apparently told Prohkorov: ‘I would like to drive your Yo-mobile to DmitryAnatolievich [Medvedev],and show it to him’ adding with consummate charm, ‘I hope your Yo-mobile will not fall apart on theway’. Perhaps the President proved more appreciative? He could be driving it all the way to the Kremlin.