Vladimir Putin rival Prokhorov is keen to launch a new political party. Consolidating support from the recent election, in which he finished an impressive third, the businessman billionaire is first going straight to the people to help him find a name for
MOSCOW – BillionaireMikhail Prokhorov, Vladimir Putin's high-profile challenger and one-time political ally, is moving on from his hardly surprising loss in Russia's March 4 presidential elections by making good on his promise to start a new political party. His first order of business? Choose a name.
Prokhorov is launching an Internet competition to see who can come up with the best moniker for his new political party. A spokesperson for Prokhorov said that a list of 100 names, chosen from 50,000 suggestions the politician has already received, would be posted on his website. The most popular suggestions, at this point, are: "New Russia," which was suggested 3,000 times; "Prokhorov's Party," suggested by 2,000 people; and "New Party," suggested 1,500 times. At the end of the competition, 10 potential names will be selected and taken to the new party's steering committee, which is made up of prominent businesspeople, journalists and politicians.
Prokhorov told Kommersant that he also met with former Russian Finance Minister Aleksei Kudrin to discuss a possible political partnership. "I think he's with us," Prokhorov said. "His knowledge and qualifications will be important for the construction of the kind of party that we envision." A source close to Kudrin said the former finance minister was not in Russia and was not prepared to comment.
"We have received more than 80,000 registration forms from people who want to join the party, and I am very happy about that. At first, we will accept into the party the people we know, who worked with us in previous political campaigns. I'm talking about people who were our volunteers, our observers, our canvassers, and the members or our voter's commission. There are about 20,000 people who fit into those categories, and we know all of them," Prokhorov clarified.
Once the party's core is formed, the new party will be keen to attract "new, bright regional leaders," he added. "But first we have to get to know them well, understand their motivations and abilities."
Building a platform for 2018?
A relative novice when it comes to politics, Prokhorov finished third in the recent election with around 8% of the vote. Last June he left "Right Cause," a party he led, because of internal conflicts. He ran for president as an independent.
"The formal creation of the party speaks to the fact that Prokhorov is finding support among Russians. The elections clearly demonstrated that fact," explained Sergei Chernyakhovskii, a political scientist.
Chernyakhovskii expects Prokhorov will have a major financial advantage over other parties in similar situations given his vast personal wealth. Among other things, Prokhorov owns the New Jersey Nets basketball team in America's NBA league. "But I don't believe he is self-sufficient as a politician. Nor do I believe he really understands what's involved in creating a political party," Chernyakhovskii said.
He does, however, enjoy good relations with Russia's Central Electoral Commission and thus shouldn't have any problem with the Justice Ministry, according to Aleksei Mukhin, also a political scientist. "He is no stranger to the regime," said Mukhin. "His motivation to participate in politics, I think, can be explained by a desire to run for president in 2018."
Read the original story in Russian
Photo - Prokhorov's Blog