Kudrin swaps ministerial guise for that of protest speaker calling for election re-run (photo: dpa)

Russia presidential elections: Ex-Finance Minister Aleksei Kudrin aims for fairness and moderation

Aleksei Kudrin, Russia’s globally-applauded former finance minister and a key ally to Vladimir Putin has joined protesters in their concerns alleging rigged parliamentary elections in December 2011. But his links to the waning popularity of Prime Minister Putin may play against him as he carves a role for himself as an independent politician. In Day 5 of the 10-day mini series on the forthcoming Russian presidential election, GIS looks at Mr Kudrin’s situation as he offers to lead a dialogue with authorities to fend off public turmoil.

ALEKSEI Kudrin served as Russia’s Finance Minister for 11 years. But he resigned in September, 2011, immediately after Vladimir Putin announced his plan to seek a third term as president.

Mr Kudrin spoke in favour of fairness and moderation, warning of a revolution unless there was dialogue, and was booed by sections of the crowd

Mr Kudrin said he would not work in a future government if the current president, Dmitry Medvedev, became prime minister in a planned job swap with Vladimir Putin. He said he could not see himself working for Mr Medvedev.

Mr Kudrin has been credited with easing the country’s ride through the global financial crisis and challenging hardline elements in the regime who sought to buy popularity through increased public spending.

Harsh critic

He has been one of the most visible and influential figures in the Russian government and has been a harsh critic of the government’s increasing fiscal spending, and in particular of its commitments to military spending.

During his time as finance minister, he won the respect of financial markets and was even dubbed ‘Putin’s brain’. He was the mastermind of a policy of fiscal conservatism which entailed using oil revenue to build precautionary reserve funds.

But Aleksei Kudrin has become something of a loose cannon on the Kremlin’s deck. He has announced that he might consider forming a liberal party, and he confirmed he has been asked to lead the Right Cause party. Mikhail Prokhorov, who will run against Mr Putin in the March presidential election, and who briefly chaired Right Cause, has countered that he may consider Mr Kudrin for the post of finance minister.

Close to Putin

Given that Mr Kudrin had long been very close to Mr Putin, it was surprising to see him as one of the speakers at the big opposition rally on Moscow’s Sakharov Avenue on December 24, 2011. Mr Kudrin spoke to the crowd calling for a re-run of the December 4 State Duma elections which had been allegedly fixed in favour of Mr Putin’s United Russia party.

Mr Kudrin spoke in favour of fairness and moderation, warning of a revolution unless there was dialogue, and was booed by sections of the crowd.

There has been speculation that Mr Kudrin could become prime minister should Mr Putin, as appears likely, be elected and should outgoing President Dmitry Medvedev not be appointed to the post.

Fiscal restriant

Mr Putin has said that he will ‘find a place’ for Mr Kudrin in his future government. This would go a long way towards calming both markets and the middle class.

But it would also mean signing on to a policy of fiscal restraint which stands at loggerheads with spending for political purposes. Analysts speculate that Mr Putin's personal backing for Mr Kudrin could make it harder for the former finance minister to carve out an independent role as a liberal politician.

Aleksei Kudrin

  • Age: 51. Born: Dobele, Latvia
  • Married. Has a son from his current and a daughter from his previous marriage
  • Studied economics at Leningrad State University
  • In 1996 he started working in the presidential administration of Boris Yeltsin
  • In 1997 he helped Mr Putin get his first job in the Kremlin
  • Was Russia’s finance minister from May 2000 to September 2011
  • Feted by investors for bringing fiscal stability to Russia after the crises of the 1990s
  • As finance minister, he won plaudits for saving much of Russia’s oil revenue in a fund that helped the country weather the international financial crisis of 2008
  • Kudrin was widely credited with prudent fiscal management, commitment to tax and budget reform and championing the free market
  • Resigned as finance minister in September 2011 after a public row with President Medvedev. His departure provided a rare glimpse into the conflicts at the heart of the Russian leadership
  • Disagrees with the results of December 4, 2011, parliamentary elections, which protesters allege were rigged in favour of Vladimir Putin’s United Russia party
  • Offers to act as an intermediary between protestors and the government calling for a re-run of the country's parliamentary elections
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