GORKI, Russia (Reuters) - President Dmitry Medvedev on Monday praised a metals tycoon, whose party backs a second term for the Kremlin chief, and said they had similar views of Russia’s future, a sign of support before parliament elections.
Billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov, 46, who was elected leader of Russia’s Right Cause party last Saturday, has supported Medvedev’s reelection in a presidential poll next March, in which either Medvedev or Prime Minister Vladimir Putin may run.
The presidential vote will be preceded by a parliamentary election, where Prokhorov’s party will try to challenge Putin’s ruling United Russia party and the Communist Party, the second biggest in Russia.
Medvedev, 45, who previously said he could lead a political party in the future, said he supported the ideas of Prokhorov’s Right Cause during a meeting with the party leader in his residence in Gorki.
“Many of your ideas correlate with mine,” Medvedev said. “It is evident that the centralisation of power in any state, even in such a complex federal state as Russia ... cannot last forever.”
He said that Russia’s political and electoral system need reform in order to become less bureaucratic and more efficient.
Medvedev, who has styled himself as a champion of democracy, has long criticised the system of top-down rule, carved out by his predecessor Putin, president between 2000 and 2008, who steered him into power upon facing a constitutional ban to serve a third straight term himself.
Prokhorov, Russia’s third richest person with an estimated fortune of $18 billion according to Forbes 2011 ranking, recently accepting an offer from pro-business Right Cause.
He said he wanted to replace Russia’s Communists as the country’s second biggest party.
He also told Medvedev that Russia should open up its political system and reinstate the election of Moscow and Saint-Petersburg heads, scrapped by Putin along with the elections of other regional governors.
Medvedev said he promised to study the proposals.
Last Saturday Prokhorov chided the country’s system of centralised rule, introduced by Putin, and said jailed ex-oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky should be freed on parole, echoing earlier remarks by Medvedev.
Most experts believe Putin plans to return to the Kremlin himself in next year’s election. But many reformists would prefer Medvedev to stay on, believing he is more sympathetic to their cause.
Medvedev has vowed to modernise the country’s ailing Soviet infrastructure and reduce its dependence on energy exports, but analysts say his efforts have fallen short more than three years through his presidency and he has failed to form his own team of reformers in the cabinet, chaired by Putin.
Putin’s ruling United Russia party holds 315 of the 450 seats in the Duma, the lower house of parliament. Right Cause was set up two years ago and is not represented in the parliament.
Prokhorov earned a fortune selling a stake in mining firm Norilsk Nickel before the 2008 financial crisis. He has big stakes in the world’s largest aluminium producer RUSAL and Russia’s top gold miner, Polyus Gold.
Writing by Alexei Anishchuk; Editing by Michael Roddy