MOSCOW, June 13 (RIA Novosti) – Russian billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov announced on Thursday that his Civil Platform party would not take part in the upcoming Moscow mayoral elections.
“We decided that the [Moscow mayor] elections are for you, and the Moscow City Duma elections are for us. We will not miss out on the Moscow City Duma elections,” Prokhorov said at a press conference on Thursday.
“It is a not a weak position, but a strong one,” the former metals magnate said, adding it was his personal decision not to stand.
The announcement followed media speculation that either Prokhorov, who finished in third place with almost 8 percent of the vote (and second place in Moscow with 20 percent) when he ran in last year’s presidential election, or his sister Irina would run in the mayoral elections on September 8. Prokhorov’s sister had been mentioned as a possible stand-in because under Russian law, the tycoon’s foreign assets make him ineligible for the post of Moscow mayor.
The billionaire, who said last year that he would like to run for mayor, said on Thursday that the authorities had resorted to tricks to ensure that a “viable candidate – Mikhail Prokhorov” would not stand in the elections, in an apparent reference to Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin’s announcement last week that he would resign and run for re-election in a snap election. Political commentators and the opposition have cried foul over the announcement, claiming it gives Sobyanin an unfair advantage, as it leaves other candidates with little time to campaign.
The Moscow mayoral election will be the first in a decade. From 2004 to 2012, governors and mayors in Russia – including Sobyanin, who took up the position in 2010 – were appointed by the president. Direct mayoral and gubernatorial elections were reintroduced last year in the wake of widespread protests sparked by allegations of large-scale electoral fraud in the December 2011 parliamentary polls.
Prokhorov, who has refrained from serious criticism of President Vladimir Putin and the existing political system since his unexpected foray into Russian politics in 2011, said last month he would lead the Civil Platform party in elections to the Moscow City Duma due in 2014.