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Russian Billionaire Prokhorov Voted Head of Political Party

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June 25 (Bloomberg) -- Russian billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov was elected chairman of the Pravoye Delo political party as the pro-democracy movement seeks to challenge Prime Minister Vladimir Putin’s United Russia in this year’s election.

“We have to become a normal, transparent and efficient party of power,” Prokhorov, Russia’s third-richest man, told reporters and party delegates in Moscow today. Prokhorov said he expected Pravoye Delo, or Right Cause, to come second in parliamentary elections scheduled for December, he said.

Prokhorov, the 46-year-old owner of the New Jersey Nets basketball team, will lead Pravoye Delo, a party with 56,000 members, into December elections for the State Duma, the lower chamber of the Russian parliament. His party will compete against United Russia, which currently holds 315 of the 450 seats and has about 2 million members.

Prokhorov, with a fortune that Forbes estimates at about $18 billion, said Pravoe Delo is not a “party of business, big or small.” Pravoe Delo will target “heads of families, men and women” who take everyday decisions and young people “who want to choose for themselves how to live,” he said.

The billionaire would be willing to become Russian prime minister if such a proposition was made, Prokhorov told reporters today. Pravoye Delo expects to receive as much as 15 percent of the vote in December’s election, he said.

Two pro-democracy parties, Yabloko and the now defunct Union of Right Forces, or SPS, failed to win any seats in the Duma in 2007 elections. SPS, which merged with other parties to form Pravoye Delo in 2008, won 0.96 percent of the vote and Yabloko got 1.59 percent, well below the 7 percent required to gain representation in parliament.

United Russia’s approval rating fell to 43 percent in April, from 51 percent in December and 64 percent in the 2007 election, according to the Public Opinion Foundation in Moscow.

To contact the reporter on this story: Lyubov Pronina in Moscow at lpronina@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Balazs Penz at bpenz@bloomberg.net

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