09/20/2011, 00.00
RUSSIA
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Russian priest ends run for Kremlin

by Nina Achmatova
Ioann Okhlobystin pulls out after he fails to gain the support of the Moscow Patriarchate. Oligarch Mikhail Prokhorov gives up his presidential ambitions after he crosses swords with the Medvedev administration. Some report a possible return of Tsar Vlad.
Moscow (AsiaNews) – As Russia’s March 2012 presidential elections approach, Russian politics are taking a number of unexpected turns. Two of four possible candidates to the top office have pulled out. At the same time, analysts believe that current Prime Minister Vladimir Putin is likely to run again.

Today, Orthodox priest Ioann Okhlobystin, 45, who declared his candidacy last week, decided to withdraw after he failed to get the endorsement of the Russian Orthodox Church. Combining a secular career (as an actor and a screenwriter) and a religious life, he announced his decision via twitter. In his online statement, he also called for the return of election ballots that would give voters the opportunity to vote “against everybody”.

Before him, metallurgy oligarch Mikhail Prokhorov, who left the Just Cause Party for differences with his aides, gave up his presidential ambitions. On 15 September, during a conference meant to prepare for December parliamentary elections, party members voted to oust Prokhorov, elected party leader only three months earlier. They made their choice with the Kremlin’s backing, ostensibly because of strategic errors Prokhorov made and his authoritarian style of leadership.

For various Russian media, there is more to the affair. In fact, it might be a sign that President Dmitri Medvedev might not be seen as a strong candidate on any election ticket.

According to some leaks reported online, the Kremlin wanted Prokhorov to win about 50 seats for the Duma (the Russian parliament) to the open the way for Medvedev’s re-election campaign as a candidate for the Just Cause Party. In return, Medvedev would have appointed Prokhorov as his prime minister. However, the (Communist and Liberal-Democratic) candidates the billionaire had picked to run for parliament did not meet the Kremlin’s standards, which sought to attract moderate voters, hence the break.

Prokhorov first explained that he ran into troubles with the Kremlin’s ideologue and presidential aide Vladislav Surkov, and then described the party he briefly led as a pawn. Afterwards, he announced his intention of creating a new party.

Following the Prokhorov affair, Russian political scientists started to say that Medvedev might not run on any ticket to pick the next president, whose is slated to be in office for six years (the length of the presidential mandate in Russia), this according to Newsru.ru. Instead, Putin and Kudrin could run together.

Izvestja’s experts believe that Aleksey Kudrin, Russia’s current Finance minister, might become the next prime minister if Tsar ‘Vlad’ gets back into the Kremlin.

“Aleksey Kudrin is a reformer who survived the 2008 financial crisis and is close to Putin,” Nikolai Petrov of the Carnegie Centre in Moscow.

He would play the role of lightening rod in a new administration that would carry out necessary but painful structural reforms. The new president would instead pursue a policy of rapprochement with Europe whilst maintaining his popularity at home.
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