Teaching Comparative Government and Politics

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Real candidate or not?

Once again, the question has been raised about Prokhorov's political activity. Is he more than a candidate that will help United Russia?

Prokhorov’s entry into Russian race could complicate Putin’s plans
In a move that may further shake the Putin government’s firm political grip, tycoon and NBA franchise owner Mikhail Prokhorov announced he will run for the presidency.

Though other opposition leaders quickly alleged that Monday’s surprise decision is a Kremlin ploy to split the vote, the mining magnate and owner of the New Jersey Nets could be a galvanizing figure to the thousands of Russians protesting alleged election fraud and widespread corruption…

The last time Mr. Prokhorov tried his hand at Russian politics, he lasted just four months before he was forced out, seemingly a victim of his own growing popularity. The 46-year-old tycoon was outspoken in his disgust at the time, blaming a “puppet master” inside the Kremlin for his ouster as the head of a pro-business party in September.

Now, depending on whom you believe, he is either challenging the puppet masters directly, or willfully joining the show…

Boris Nemtsov, a former deputy prime minister and a key leader of the street protests, told the Interfax news agency that he believes Mr. Prokhorov’s candidacy is a Kremlin project aimed at defusing public anger over the parliamentary elections by creating the impression that the coming presidential vote will be a competitive one.

Former chess champion Garry Kasparov, a long-time critic of Mr. Putin, was more direct. “Prokhorov is a puppet,” he said in an e-mail to The Globe and Mail. “The Kremlin is desperate to create a distraction and this is another effort to create the illusion of choice to mollify the Russian middle class, to get them out of the streets.”…

Challenging the Kremlin comes with enormous risks, even for the ultra-rich. Mikhail Khodorkovsky was Russia’s richest man until he became outspoken in his criticism of Mr. Putin. He has been in prison since 2003, convicted on tax evasion and embezzlement charges that were widely seen as politically motivated.

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