United Russia Attacks Prokhorov

June 12, 2013
Mikhail Prokhorov (Photo: Kirill Lebedev / "Times")

[This article analyses United Russia’s political manoeuvres in relation to the Moscow mayoral race, scheduled for September 8, 2013 following the early resignation of Mayor Sergei Sobyanin—Ed.

United Russia Duma Deputy Irina Yarovaya has said that Prokhorov cannot run for Moscow Mayor’s office, even if he transfers his foreign assets to a trust. In her opinion, the assets must be sold. Prokhorov’s party, the “Civic Platform” takes that statement with a certain degree of irony: United Russia is bitter because they don’t have their own candidate, as Sergei Sobyanin doesn’t want to run as a party member.

Yarovaya, a member of the United Russia General Council, accused Mikhail Prokhorov, a businessman and the leader of the Civic Platform Party, of cheating. This was her reaction to the reports by Dozhd TV that Prokhorov would be able to participate in the mayoral elections, despite the fact that he owns foreign assets, which would disqualify him from running according to the law which came into effect on June 1, 2013. However, according to Dozhd TV, Prokhorov will still be able to register, if he manages to register all his assets under his partners’ names of and place them into trust within the next three weeks.

Yarovaya decided to publicly shame Prokhorov:

“The loophole of trust management has been legally blocked. Under such scheme (a.k.a. a “blind trust”), Prokhorov remains the owner, so you shouldn’t pretend like you are with your country, you should really be with it. If he really wants to work for the people, he should either transfer his assets into this country, or sell them. But want Prokhorov is trying to do is to leave things as they are, and mislead the public with his statements. This approach by the leader of Civic Platform shows a complete misunderstanding of the anticorruption measures taken by the government.”

Meanwhile, many of Yarovaya’s colleagues in United Russia are extremely wealthy individuals and business owners, and have transferred ownership of their businesses under some kind of trust management.

In reality, the scheme that Prokhorov intends to use is quite well known. Moreover, it is not clear whether Prokhorov himself will participate in the elections. Earlier this week, sources in Civic Platform told Gazeta.ru that, if Prokhorov is unable to get rid of his foreign assets in a timely manner, his sister, Irina Prokhorova, could run for mayor.

Civic Platform’s press-service of the reacted to Yarovaya’s statement with certain degree of irony:

“We appreciate all the attention that the members of the United Russia party have been paying recently to the personality of Mikhail Prokhorov and to the prospective candidates for the mayor’s office from the Civic Platform party. We can explain such attention only by the fact that United Russia doesn’t have its own candidate. As far as we know, Sergei Sobyanin refused to run as a candidate from that party, so it looks like the party just cannot put up with that fact. We would like them to accept our sympathy, and reiterate that Civic Platform will have its candidate at the mayoral election. The name will be announced next week.”

The snap mayoral election has been scheduled by the Moscow City Duma for September 8, after Sergei Sobyanin, the Mayor of Moscow, submitted his resignation on June 4. On June 5 his resignation was accepted by Vladimir Putin. Gazeta.ru found out about the upcoming decision by the Mayor on June 3. He made that move to be reelected not in 2015, when his term expires, but this fall, because during the campaign most voters will be on vacation, and the opposition simply won’t have enough time to prepare. As a result, the Mayor, who represents the ruling party, expects to be able to hold his position in Russia’s most politically restive city. Earlier, Gazeta.ru reported that, according to sources close to the Moscow government, Sobyanin will run as a self-nominated candidate, endorsed by both United Russia and the All-Russian Popular Front.

Leaders of diverse political forces have also announced their decisions to run for Mayor. This includes Sergei Mitrokhin, the leader of Yabloko; Alexei Navalny, an opposition politician; Sergei “Spider” Troitsky, a rock musician; Oleg Mitvol, the leader of the Green Aliance; and Andrei Dunaev (who, until late 2012, was the leader of the Right Cause party). It’s not clear whether ex-mayor Yuri Luzhkov will also participate. The parliamentary parties – CPRF, Just Russia and LDPR – announced their intention to participate, but haven’t decided on their candidates yet. Mikhail Prokhorov has said that Civic Platform will participate in one way or another, but he hasn’t announced his personal plans yet.

Once nominated, Sergei Sobyanin, a member of Moscow Political Council of United Russia, will distance himself from that party and run as a self-appointed candidate endorsed by the All-Russian Popular Front.

The first scandal related to the upcoming elections has already happened. The “Social Network,” a Public TV program, was shut down after broadcasting stories about Putin’s divorce and Sobyanin’s early elections. The Putin story was taken off the air, and after the story about Sobyanin was aired, an unnamed Moscow deputy mayor called and complained to the management. Vladimir Sorokin, one of the anchors, reported this on his Facebook page, and added that he and his colleague Ekaterina Sorokina have decided to quit because of this censorship. Public TV Director Anatoly Lysenko said that the allegations about censorship are lies.