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Is This Putin's Rival? Russian Presidential Candidate Mikhail Prokhorov Speaks

Billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov outlines to Kommersant his presidential program, titled a “Real Future.” He wants to cut the presidential term to four years, privatize industry and foster a free press. Are they just words?

Mikhail Prokhorov in December 2011 (moscowprotest)
Prokhorov lays out his vision (Norilsk Nickel)
Natalia Bashlikova and Alla Barakhova

MOSCOW- Dubbing his platform "A Real Future," Russian billionaire businessman and presidential candidate Mikhail Prokhorov spoke with Kommersant about his vision for the country and outlined his top priorities if he were to win the March election.

Prokhorov said he sees a "genuine society" as one of "equal opportunities' in which the main assets are people who have rights and belong to "social, ethnic and religious groups." He says media freedom should be guaranteed through the compulsory sale of state radio and TV companies and the banning of any propaganda promoting the cult of personality.

Prokhorov promises to limit the president and governors to only two terms in order "to facilitate the creation of parties, and allow them to form electoral blocs." He also wants to reduce the vote threshold for representation in the Duma, Russia's parliament, to 3%.

He intends to guarantee the rights of election observers and to remove government from the formation of election commissions. He also calls for canceling absentee ballot votes, better equipping automatic voting machines and simplifying the rules for referenda.

Prokhorov is ready to limit any term in office to four years. He says the next presidential election should be held on June 12, 2016. He did not say when the next parliamentary elections would be.

Also, Prokhorov plans to abandon "the notorious power vertical" of centralized control, as well as increase freedom of speech for government members and citizens, and abolish federal districts. In addition, he wants to cut the number of regions in the federation, but this would only follow a referendum.

Prokhorov believes all federal judges should be appointed by the Federation Council. He says the president should no longer be able nominate members of the Constitutional, Supreme and Supreme Arbitration Courts.

The businessman promised to pardon those convicted of economic crimes and to amend the Criminal Code to repeal the law on public procurement, to privatize Gazprom, a state-owned utility, to cover "the current Pension Fund deficit." He calls for dividing it into competing companies.

A mish-mash?

Unlike Vladimir Putin, Prokhorov believes the country should move away from a Eurasian Union, and move closer to the European Union to form "a single geo-economic area" with a common currency based on the euro and the ruble. He also wants to stop experiments with changing time zones, as happened under current President Dmitry Medvedev.

Prokhorov also spoke about the past, saying that the 20th century – wars, terror, the cult of personality – which he says "needs to be carefully evaluated." Prokhorov promises to open the archives of the communist era, commemorate the victims of Lenin-Stalin terror, but also to mark Nov. 7 as a day of remembrance for all Russians victimized by the wars of the previous century.

"It's a good liberal-democratic program, "the Institute of Technology Director Eugene Suchkov told Kommersant.

But the head of the International Institute for Political Expertise Yevgeny Minchenko called Prokhorov's policies a "mish-mash of liberal and national-patriotic ideas." He criticized the candidate's plans to effectively introduce an offshore zone in the North Caucasus republics, and to create a single geopolitical area with the European Union.

Political analyst Sergei Chernyakhovsky said Prokhorov, "crammed as many things he possibly could" into his policies. "He talks about the need to sell off state-owned assets, and at the same time the need to strengthen the planning of the economy," Chernyakhovsky said.

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Photo - Norilsk Nickel

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