Senin, 12 Desember 2011

Billionaire to Challenge Putin in Presidential Race

MOSCOW—Russian billionaire tycoon and Nets basketball team owner Mikhail Prokhorov Monday said he will run against Vladimir Putin in next year's presidential election.

Mr. Prokhorov's announcement to a room full of journalists came eight days after Russia's parliamentary election, whose results are being criticized and have led to widespread protests. In September, Mr. Prokhorov gave up his bid to lead a pro-business Just Cause party in the parliamentary poll and accused the Kremlin of trying to turn him into a "puppet."

Russian tycoon and Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov on Monday announced his intention to run against Vladimir Putin in next year's presidential election.

"These past two-and-a-half months, my colleagues and I have been quietly and calmly working to build an infrastructure that will allow us to gather two million signatures," Mr. Prokhorov said. Under Russian law, Mr. Prokhorov has to collect the signatures to face Mr. Putin and other presidential candidates from parties with parliamentary representation.

Mr. Prokhorov said the current parliament is filled with those who practice a "cheap populism" that will eventually bankrupt Russia. His own party, Mr. Prokhorov said, will be one of "long-term, bottom-up development" and will be focused on the country's emerging middle class.

Mr. Prokhorov didn't outline any concrete positions, nor did he say what the name of his party would be. "If you have any suggestions, please send them," he said.

Mr. Prokhorov hasn't yet gained significant public support, according to polls. At the end of July, 9% of Russians had a positive view of Mr. Prokhorov, while 10% had a negative view, according to the Public Opinion Foundation. In September, only 3% of respondents to a Levada Center poll said Mr. Prokhorov's speeches were memorable, compared with 31% who found Mr. Putin's speeches memorable.

Mr. Prokhorov said he has met with former finance minister Alexei Kudrin, and while they "share many positions," the two have decided to not work together. Mr. Kudrin, who has worked for years with Mr. Putin, has said he was offered to head the Just Cause party earlier this year but declined. Mr. Kudrin was fired by President Dmitry Medvedev in September, after the two publicly clashed over budget spending.

Mr. Prokhorov also said he would limit criticism of the ruling United Russia party in his campaign, promising to offer "10% criticism, and 90% solutions."

"I'm totally against revolution," he said. "All revolutions in Russia have been bloody. I'm for evolution."

When asked if he feared sharing the fate of former Yukos Oil chief Mikhail Khodorkovsky, who has seen his company broken up and is currently serving prison time after challenging Mr. Putin, Mr. Prokhorov said: "I did not do anything illegal and have nothing to be afraid of."

Mr. Prokhorov, who owns stakes in OAO Polyus Gold and United Co. Rusal PLC said there is no basis for denying parole to Mr. Khodorkovsky.

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