As impetuously as it began, Mikhail Prokhorov’s career as a leader of pro-business Right Cause political party, was over on 15 September, when the Russia’s metals and banking tycoon left his own political party and called for his supporters to follow him.
Uncertainty clouds the future of Mikhail Prokhorov as a politician. What is certain is that he will not get a seat in the 5th State Duma, which will be elected on 4 December.
An insider source in Right Cause has told me that Prokhorov’s plans and ambitions were wider than just to bring his party into parliament. If Prokhorov wanted to, he would have become a member of the parliament long ago.
However the way in which Prokhorov's sudden downfall is portrayed by Russian media have little to do with reality. It is not a secret that the idea of replacing prime minister Vladimir Putin with Mikhail Prokhorov in spring and summer 2011 was discussed behind the scenes by the group of Dmity Medvedev's supporters inside the Kremlin. That would have yield the possibility of Putin's losing the presidential elections in March 2012.
This scenario, if it had been launched, would have ended up with Dmitry Medvedev's reputation of Vladimir Putin’s junior partner. Enjoying almost unlimited powers, including power to sack prime minister, Medvedev has never defied his master. If Mikhail Prokhorov and his party gathered a considerable number of votes during the elections, the scenario would be real.
But what were the chances of Right Cause to enter the parliament? In spring 2011 the staff of the Russian president has serious sociological survey done. The results showed that about 15% of Russian people are people of liberal professions, such as businessmen, journalists, scientists and artists. They have no representation in the parliament.
These people are outsiders of current political system. They ignore mainstream politics, with most active joining minor oppositional groups, while the majority simply keeping away from it or privately discussing the politics over tea. The Kremlin planned to target this group with Mikhail Prokhorov’s party in order to neutralize discontent of pro-western part of the population, people of liberal ideas and wider groups of intelligentsia.
Putin’s group in the Kremlin strangled Prokhorov’s ambitions to become the prime minister. The mastermind of his expulsion from the party was Kremlin’s strategist Vladislav Surkov, who holds the position of the first deputy head of the Staff of the President. Another presidential aide Radiy Khabirov, deputy head of directorate for home affairs in the Staff, orchestrated the process.
According to unnamed source in the Kremlin, the decision to ouster Prokhorov was made in haste. The attack started with media campaign against Yevgeny Roizman, popular anti-narcotics campaigner from the Urals, whom Prokhorov made his party’s headliner. He was targeted for having been convicted when a young man andbeing allegedly linked to Uralmash organized criminal group.
The campaign began 3 days before the party conference, which was due to finalize the party list for December poll. Clumsy as it was, the attack seemed to lack PR guru Surkov's style.
For oligarch Prokhorov and his supports in Right Cause this week brought bad news. Prokhorov is unlikely to reenter politics in the nearest future. His party stays out of the parliament. Without Prokhorov's funds and Kremlin's support a pro-business party in Russia should forget about winning 5% of votes, necessary for entering the Duma.
David Campbell, Kremlin’s affairs correspondent