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Don’t get too excited over the new ‘political competition’ in Russia

By Nikita Chirkov

January 2

As the anti-Putin protests continued growing in Russia, and reached their peak with 50,000+ protestors, President Dmitry Medvedev promised to “investigate” the election results to cool the movement. However the true surprise came much later, with an announcement of a multi billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov to run for president against Vladimir Putin. Coincidence? Or a fake challenger to the crown? Ether way, the picture is not too promising.

The successful businessman and New Jersey Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov has been involved in Russian politics before this incident. He nearly formed his own “Prokhorovs Party” (backed by Putin) and is a respected figure in many circles, due to, undoubtedly, his financial influence. However what is strange to me is the timing of this announcement. Right as the voter fraud claims begun to accumulate around the nation, right as the country begins to erupt with anti-Putin protests Prokhorov comes to the rescue and announces – don’t worry, there WILL be political competition! Something about this smells, and the smell is something the Russian people have smelled since the birth of Russia twenty years ago. Putin is playing chess. And this could be his master move to smooth the election and calm the opposition.

However I am of two minds on this issue. There is a great possibility that it is the national movement and demands for political competition which sparked Prokhorov’s interest to run for president; a move which he probably thought would boost his support in the election. If this is truly the case, then we have to approach this from a different tangent. Who is Prokhorov, and more importantly, what does he stand for politically? Unlike all the other major news sources who took the story as a positive improvement in Russian politics, I am happy to announce that this is the type of political competition Russia does not need. Prokhorov stands for some outrageous things like the 20-hour work day he proposed to “boost” the Russian economy. Furthermore, he is clearly running for personal career improvement, and has minimal background in government or management. Prokhorov was never one of those self made entrepreneurs who we hear about in the United States. He inherited most of his money from his father and became a billionaire by the age of 40. No experience, radical ideas and a desire for more personal wealth and power. Does this sound like a winning plan against Putin?

No matter which road you want to take in formulating your own opinion on this subject the move has been made, and the chess game is in full force once again. Perhaps this is the image Putin is trying to create: a powerful experienced Prime Minister running against an inexperienced, young, radical Prokhorov; a scenario which only leaves one obvious choice – continuation of Putin’s regime.