Will Russian billionaire and New Jersey Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov team up with Alexei Kudrin to challenge Vladimir Putin in Russia's presidential election?
(AP Photo/Misha Japaridze)
A longtime ally of Vladimir Putin called for the creation of a liberal party to fill a void in Russian politics exposed by mass protests against the prime minister's 12-year rule, and cast himself as its potential leader.
Also on Monday, Russian billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov said that he would run for the Russian presidency and create a new political party.
"I made probably the most serious decision in my life. I am running for president,” said Prokhorov at a Moscow press conference. He did not rule out the possibility of uniting with former Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin.
Kudrin's proposal create a new liberal party, if it gains support, could offer a way for Putin to channel discontent and reduce the threat posed by the biggest opposition protests since he took power in 1999.
But Kudrin also warned that the legitimacy of a presidential election Putin is expected to win in March would be undermined by any failure to address protesters' allegations of fraud in a parliamentary election on Dec. 4. That poll, he said, had shown the need for a strong liberal alternative to the ruling party.
"Today it is clear that this deficit is even more dire than we could have imagined," said Kudrin, a fiscal hawk forced out in September after a dispute with President Dmitry Medvedev over lavish state military spending plans.
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