Russia’s Prokhorov Announces Run for President

Posted December 12th, 2011 at 6:05 pm (UTC-5)
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Russian tycoon Mikhail Prokhorov on Monday announced his bid to run against Prime Minister Vladimir Putin in a presidential election next March.

Prokhorov, the billionaire bachelor and Russia's third richest man, told a news conference in Moscow his decision to compete in the election is the most important of his life.

A few blocks away, a planned Constitution Day rally next to the Kremlin walls was turned into a pro-Putin rally for several thousand supporters.

Putin has seen his authority undermined by nationwide mass protests against a December 4 parliamentary election that opposition activists say was rigged in favor of his ruling United Russia party. Tens of thousands of people rallied in Moscow Saturday to demand an election re-run. It was one of the largest anti-government protests in Russia since the 1990s.

Putin is running to reclaim the presidential post he held from 2000 to 2008 and plans to appoint his chosen successor, current President Dmitry Medvedev, as prime minister. The proposed job swap announced three months ago has angered many Russians, and Putin's popularity has been in decline ever since.

Putin's United Russia saw its share of the vote drop to just under 50 percent in the election, significantly reducing the party's majority in the lower house of parliament. But critics say even that result was inflated by fraud.

President Medvedev said Sunday authorities will investigate alleged manipulation of the parliamentary election. But Putin's spokesman said Monday the alleged fraud affected less than 1 percent of the total votes cast and predicted the cases will not affect the election's legitimacy.

In another development, former Putin aide and finance minister Alexei Kudrin has called for the creation of a liberal party to offer voters an alternative to United Russia. Kudrin said the demand for such a party is “so high that it certainly will be established.” He expressed a willingness to participate in its creation.