Russian billionaire launches post-party political party

June 4, 2012

Mikhail Prokhorov, the billionaire and New Jersey Nets owner who ran a notably mild and thoroughly hopeless campaign for the Russian presidency this year, launched a political party Monday for people who don’t belong to a party — and don’t want to belong to one.

Prokhorov envisions a bare-bones group that will exist on paper to enable independents to run for office. The organization will be a platform for them because candidates here have a hard time joining a race without party backing. The focus, he said, will be on local elections. That’s the arena analysts and opposition activists think is likely to see the most political action in the near future.

“We’re not for revolution,” Prokhorov said. “We’re for evolutionary, rapid development.”

Prokhorov calls his group the Civil Platform Party and says its purpose will be to act like the administrator of a social networking site. It will be a gateway, or, he said, a vehicle for “crowd sourcing.” It will be a post-party party — which, in a country where political parties tend to be ideological, small and held in low regard by the general population, may not be such a bad idea.

“We ascribe narrow ideas to parties,” he said. “The age of parties has passed.”

Prokhorov announced the launch at a news conference that included his sister Irina and the recently elected opposition mayors of Yaroslavl and Tolyatti, among others. Prokhorov won’t be joining his new party, and neither will the new mayors, they said. The group will have just 500 members — the minimum needed to register a political party in Russia — most of whom will be lawyers whose task will be to take care of the paperwork, he said.

He said the party’s platform will be to serve the 6 million mostly urban voters who backed him in the March election — plus, of course, anyone else of sufficiently like mind.

Prokhorov was accused of serving President Vladi­mir Putin’s interests — intentionally or not — by dividing the opposition vote and giving a veneer of respectability to this year’s presidential campaign, but he argued Monday that his latest effort is not about the Kremlin.

Prokhorov advocates free markets, competition, the rule of law and hard work, and anyone who can subscribe to those values is welcome to make use of the Civil Platform Party, he said.

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