Billionaire politician battles freemasons and Kremlin

Right Cause leader Mikhail Prokhorov addresses the students of the Moscow State University's Department of Economics. (RIA Novosti / Vitaliy Belousov)
On the first day of the Right Cause convention, the party’s leader, Mikhail Prokhorov, dismissed the entire executive committee, accusing them of an attempt to seize power in the party.

Prokhorov also expelled three people from the party, including the head of Russian freemasons, Andrey Bogdanov.

“There is an attempt by some members of the presidential administration to take control of Right Cause,” he told journalists during an urgent media briefing on Wednesday, adding that he is ready to provide evidence.

He also strongly refuted reports that he intended to resign as the Right Cause leader and stressed that there is no split in the party.

The first unconfirmed news that Right Cause would oust the fresh party leader during their campaign congress appeared on Tuesday evening, less than one day before the start of the party’s major pre-election convention. Several web editions quoted unnamed sources in the party as saying that Prokhorov’s foes control the congress and intended to oust the billionaire, but provided no details or reasons for the speculation. Media were barred from covering the congress.

Some members of Right Cause claimed on Wednesday that Prokhorov’s opponents have registered non-members at the convention in order to get a majority and remove the current head of the party.

Prokhorov’s representative told RIA Novosti news agency the convention “has been illegally hijacked” through illegitimate registration of new members.

“They have put on the list people who until today had nothing to do with Right Cause, registered them, given them voting mandates and created a mandate commission,” the representative said.

The chairman of the party's executive committee, Andrey Dunayev, denied claims of hijacking the conference.

“I know almost all the delegates personally,” commented the head of the Moscow region branch of Right Cause. “I haven’t noticed any suspicious-looking people here.”

Prokhorov did not appear at the convention on its opening day, but announced through his representative that he had stopped Dunayev’s powers as the chairman of the executive committee and the executive committee as a whole. Prokhorov also said that three people were expelled from the party for violating its charter: the grand master of the Freemason Grand Lodge of Russia, Andrey Bogdanov, and two others. Bogdanov joined the Right Cause when it merged with his Democratic Party of Russia in 2008 and became famous when he ran for president in 2008 even though he got only a miniscule number of votes.

A short time later Prokhorov had a meeting with journalists and announced personally that he was not going to resign.

“Apparently you expect me to announce my resignation – you are not going to hear this,” Prokhorov said, and signed the party protocols as a leader of the party in the reporters’ presence.

Prokhorov also told the press that controversial Russian public activist Yevgeniy Roizman will remain on the Right Cause’s elections list regardless of all pressure the party was experiencing from the Kremlin. Roizman, who served a short sentence in the 1980s for fraud and burglary and who was a State Duma deputy last decade, is a well-known figure in Russia for his harsh stance on illegal drugs. Roizman’s City Without Drugs foundation has been fighting drug dealers in central Russia for years, together with police and the State Drug Control Commission, but at some point one of the leaders of the foundation was convicted and sentenced for illegally depriving people of freedom – for running an amateur drug rehabilitation clinic.

Prokhorov invited Roizman to the Right Cause after becoming the party leader and Roizman accepted the offer. However, a few days ago Roizman wrote in his blog that certain people in the official bodies of power told him that some unnamed officials from the Kremlin demanded that Roizman be removed from the elections lists. Prokhorov has said that if Roizman is forced to leave the party, he will leave together with him.

Not everyone in the Right Cause supported Roizman as a candidate for parliament.

“There is no problem with Prokhorov, but there are a lot of party members who are against including the head of the City Without Drugs foundation Yevgeniy Roizman into the federal elections list of the party,” Bogdanov declared.

In the afternoon the Right Cause convention announced a break in its work until Thursday. One of the new party members, Prokhorov’s protégé and influential media personality Andrei Lyubimov, wrote in his blog that Prokhorov would deliver a strong speech before the congress and prove that he is still in control of the party.

Prokhorov himself promised to hold another press conference on Thursday and personally report both the results of the convention and possibly the Kremlin’s stance on the developments in the Right Cause.

Prokhorov was unanimously approved as leader of Right Cause in June and since then has spearheaded a vocal campaign to raise his party’s profile. He aims to get 15 percent of the vote in upcoming parliamentary elections on December 4. He also stated that he may join the presidential race.

New Right Cause manifesto

­On Tuesday, Mikhail Prokhorov made public a new version of the Right Cause election manifesto, in which he floated the idea of forming a cabinet based on the results of parliamentary elections.

He released the draft document in his blog, pointing out that this might not be the final version and that he remains open to all constructive suggestions.

“The government of the Russian Federation must be formed according to the outcome of the parliamentary election. This is the only way to make parties bear responsibility for their electoral promises,” Prokhorov wrote.

He also stressed the necessity of bringing back the election of governors which was cancelled in 2004.

In addition, the document lays out the party leader’s views on reform of the judicial system, social policy, the economy and international politics. The essence of the manifesto is summed up in its opening slogan:  “Jobs for the employable, care for children, benefits for pensioners, prison for bribe-takers.”

As for the judicial system, Mikhail Prokhorov’s aim is to establish firm parameters for the jurisdiction of the courts.

“Any pressure on the courts from the authorities should be regarded as a grave criminal offense,” he stressed. “The job of hearing arguments between businesses and the state should be given to arbitration courts.”

The politician pays significant attention to social issues, notably the problem of poverty.

“Our party will be pushing for a major review of current social policies which have led to the systemic reproduction of poverty in the country… We need a review of the poverty criteria which are used now,” the document reads.

Turning to the economy, Mikhail Prokhorov notes that for the past 20 years, Russia has actually returned to the “pre-industrial epoch, such is the scale of the loss of Russia’s industrial potential.” His goal is to create powerful modern industry, which is “the only possible foundation of steady economy independent of the fluctuations of the world energy market.”

On foreign policy, the Right Cause leader wants an alliance with the European Union and closer cooperation with the Baltic States and the CIS:

“Some kind of alliance between Russia and Europe is not only possible, it is crucial for both Russia and Europe. The EU, Baltic States, CIS and Russia are the largest market in the world… The scale and influence of such an economic union would be unparalleled.”

The blog entry was published hours before the opening of the Right Cause convention, scheduled to take place from September 14-16.