Is Prokhorov creating another party for the bourgeoisie?
Valdaiclub.com interview with Olga Kryshtanovskaya, Doctor of Social Science, Director General of the Institute of Applied Politics.
According to polls, many Russians believe that Mikhail Prokhorov is a Kremlin stooge. If this is so, will his party become a tool of United Russia? How independent will Prokhorov’s new liberal party be?
I don’t think that Prokhorov is a Kremlin stooge, although he has good relations with the authorities. It is also unlikely that he is a puppet controlled by his master; this is not like him.
He may be cooperating with the authorities, to a degree, but he has his own perspective – restrained realism with rightwing leanings. Prokhorov is loyal to the authorities not because he has been told to be, but because this is his free choice. He believes in debates and competition, not aggression or war. He makes himself heard without making harsh attacks such as other opposition forces.
Can his new party become sufficiently influential to compete with United Russia or the Communist Party?
I don’t think so, and not because of the party’s base but because of its future leader, Mikhail Prokhorov. Assuming that liberal voters account for about 20% of the electorate, and given that Prokhorov won 8% of the vote in the presidential election, this means that he failed to win many liberal votes.
Many supporters of rightwing liberal views do not consider Prokhorov their leader. There are a few reasons for this. First, he has not a clearly defined political commodity; second, his attempts to reform the Right Cause party failed; and third, his dubious morals and scandal-tarred image.
History shows that liberal opposition leaders are unpopular among the electorate. Can Prokhorov reverse this trend?
In the past, liberalism was an abstract notion in Russia, but now we have a group of people representing this ideology – the Russian bourgeoisie, which owns property and has vested interests in liberal ideology, the independence of the courts, the clear delimitation of powers, and the development of democracy in Russia. Private business cannot develop in accordance with any other principles or even exist in a different environment. It is true that in the past the liberal electorate was very small, but it has been growing due to an increasing number of people employed in the private sector. They are gradually coming to understand their interests.
But the success of liberalism as an idea and the success of Mikhail Prokhorov as a liberal politician are two different things. Not everyone who has declared himself a liberal can win elections.
Will Prokhorov’s business success become a factor shaping his party, or will people support him because of the ideas he is advocating?
There are objective and subjective causes behind any process. An objective cause in this case is the desire of owners to strengthen their positions. Owners are maturing, and they better understand their interests. This is why they objectively need a rightwing liberal leader.
The subjective cause is that his party will succeed if Prokhorov does something extraordinary, or offer fresh, interesting ideas. But so far he has not advanced any such ideas. For example, his idea of introducing the euro in Russia showed that Prokhorov did not think he could win the election. A responsible politician would have never said this.
Views expressed are of individual Members and Contributors, rather than the Club's, unless explicitly stated otherwise.