Mikhail Prokhorov eager to exchange business for politics

Mikhail Prokhorov (RIA Novosti / STF)
Billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov has stated he is ready to give up business in case the Right Cause, the party he has agreed to lead, makes it to the State Duma in the parliamentary election this December.

­He will reveal his program on June 25 during a party conference.

“I think millions of our fellow-citizens will like the program,”
Prokhorov told journalists. The businessman said that “for some reason” he “does not doubt” the party will surpass the five per cent threshold needed to enter the Duma. If so, he has the intention to work there “24 hours a day.”

Prokhorov added that he is also ready to overcome a skeptical attitude to the party which he foresees will be labeled all kinds of names from “the party of oligarchs” to “the Kremlin project.” What he plans to do is to “explain that this is a party of common sense.”

For the time being, he says, common sense is not something that is characteristic of Russian business and something he does not want to put up with.

“If this continues, in a couple of years the profession of businessman, I mean small and medium-sized businesses, could become a rarity,” he commented. “That might be one of the reasons I decided to give up business, which I’m doing quite successfully.”

But it seems that he is going to apply some business principles to politics. Mikhail Prokhorov admitted he will invest money in the party, but he is not willing to play the role of a “fat cat”, and expects his fellow party members to bring their funds as well.

“A stable party is one which unites like-minded people who spend both their time and money for the promotion of idea they believe in,” he said.

However, the would-be leader of the Right Cause declined to reveal exactly which people he wants to attract. But there are already those who are eager to join on their own initiative. One of the Right Cause’s current leaders, Boris Nadezhdin, told Kommersant daily that he has been receiving requests to enter the party from deputies of the Fair Russia left-center party following the dismissal of its head, Sergey Mironov, as chairman of the upper house.

As for the chances of the party to succeed in the parliamentary election, last week’s poll conducted by the All-Russia Center for Public Opinion (VTSIOM) showed that only one per cent of Russians are ready to vote for the Right Cause. At the same time, sociologists note that some 20 per cent believe that Mikhail Prokhorov’s name will add value to the party.

The Right Cause was set up in November 2008 as a result of a merge of several liberal parties with the Union of Right Forces at the core. Right-center ideology has not been popular in Russia, partly due to the fact that in the mass conscience, liberalism is linked to the turbulent 1990s following the collapse of the Soviet Union, when liberal reforms resulted in a drastic decrease in living standards.

The current state of small and medium enterprises in Russia indeed leaves much to be desired. President Dmitry Medvedev has repeatedly stressed the need for the development of this sphere as one of the key elements of modernization. The main obstacle entrepreneurs are now facing is the imperfect legal framework and high taxes, something Prokhorov intends to change if he is successful. Skeptics say, though, that he is planning to lobby for the interests of big business.