Mikhail Prokhorov’s decision to run in next year’s presidential election may signal a new era of political pluralism in Russia. And while the billionaire’s shot at victory is uncertain, experts say the electorate will win out come March.
Speaking with RT, Martin McCauley, a Russia specialist at the University of London, believes Prokhorov might attempt to become the voice for middle-class urbanites looking to be heard.
“He may in fact attract the new urban class in Moscow and Saint Petersburg, and Yekaterinburg and places like that, some of the people who were demonstrating last week, the young professionals, the under 35s and so on. They want a voice," McCauley says, as well as the opportuntiy "to participate in policy-making – and they think their voices are not being listened to, and they think they are the future of Russia.”
However, Alexander Rahr, the director of the Russia-Eurasia Program at the German Council on Foreign Relations, contends that as an independent candidate, Prokhorov has little chance of being a contender come March 4.
“I doubt that Prokhorov will get enough followers," Rahr said. "He needs a party, he needs a movement. He has the money to conduct a campaign, but he needs the people who will operate for him.”
Rahr continued: “He has the money to do all kinds of things in Russia, but money’s not enough to win or even to do well in presidential elections. If he won’t get a party behind him, I think he has no chance even to be registered for the presidential election."
However, McCauley remains optimistic that Prokhorov still has a shot of getting the upwardly-mobile to rally around him in the upcoming months. And regardless of how Prokhorov ultimately fairs as he takes on Prime Minister Vladimir Putin in the 2012 presidential elections, what really matters is that the Russian political climate is changing for the better.
“The election in March will be much more interesting than it was four years ago, when it was a foregone conclusion who would win," McCauley says."So you will have various candidates with an opportunity to put forward their views and actually participate with the population, and the young urban elites will hope that there will be real participation; that they’ll be able to articulate their views. Prokhorov will enter into debate with them, and articulate his views, and he can present that as policy and say, 'this is what these people want, and I’m a democratic candidate, and I’m articulating the democratic mood.'”