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Russian Billionaire Turned Politician's Popularity Improves Slightly - Poll

Mikhail LoginovMoscow, 7 July: The Russians' attitude to businessman Mikhail Prokhorov, who announced the start of his career in politics in May and who was elected head of the Right Cause party in late June, has improved, according to a survey carried out by the Public Opinion Foundation.

Prokhorov, who is one of the richest people in Russia and the world, said in mid-May that he intended to enter politics and agreed to lead the Right Cause Party. On 25 June he was elected leader of the Right Cause Party. At the congress, Prokhorov set the goals - to become "the second party in power" and to be elected to the parliament. He spoke of the need to increase social spending and cut the defence budget, change the economy's infrastructure and the system of running the country, abolish the posts of presidential envoys, give greater powers to the regions, and restore mayoral elections, including in Moscow and St Petersburg.

The Public Opinion Foundation carried out surveys to find out the Russians' attitude to Prokhorov on 22 May and 3 July.

In the month and a half the respondents' attitudes to Prokhorov has improved: in July, 12 per cent of those surveyed said they liked him, while in May the figure was 8 per cent. During this time, the number of those who did not like him (9 per cent) or were indifferent (19 per cent) to him did not change. The number of people who "knew nothing about him" dropped by 5 per cent (59 per cent in May and 54 per cent in June). Five per cent in May and 6 per cent in June could not say about their attitude towards Prokhorov.

Those who like Prokhorov are usually men aged 55-64 and people with high incomes (19 per cent each), and professionals (18 per cent).

According to the June survey, 14 per cent liked the fact that Prokhorov was elected head of the Right Cause party (10 per cent in May), 11 per cent did not like that (15 per cent in May) and 76 per cent (75 per cent in May) could not say.

At the same time 83 per cent of respondents heard nothing about the new challenges for the party, ideas and proposals for the development of the country's political system, which Prokhorov had announced at the congress. Eight per cent liked his ideas and 6 per cent did not.

The businessman's proposal to increase social spending was approved by 74 per cent (disapproved by 9 per cent), and to distribute abandoned agricultural land free among Russian citizens by 68 per cent (disapproved by 12 per cent).

Half of Russians (50 per cent) supported the billionaire's proposal to elect city mayors, including in Moscow and St Petersburg, and 16 per cent did not approve of that; 45 per cent of those polled believe it is necessary to elect heads of police, courts and prosecutors locally (20 per cent disagreed with that).

Most Russian citizens (57 per cent) did not approve of Prokhorov's proposal to cut the defence budget and 17 per cent did. The billionaire's proposal to abolish compulsory conscription and make it voluntary was approved by 33 per cent and disapproved by 48 per cent.

One third of the respondents (33 per cent) did not approve the proposal to give the governors a major part of federal powers for the regions they control and 29 per cent supported the idea.

Approximately equal numbers supported (25 per cent) and opposed (23 per cent) the idea to abolish the institute ??presidential envoys in federal districts.

The poll was conducted 2-3 July, in 100 settlements in 43 Russian regions among 1,500 respondents.

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