Belarusian authorities aim to restrict candidates activity
Despite the holiday season, political activity has boosted in Belarusian society, which prompted the authorities to downsize potential parliamentary candidates. Opposition candidates have attracted public attention with bright performances during the debates on public television. The government is likely to continue to narrow down the campaigning framework for the opposition candidates.
CEC head Lidziya Yarmoshyna told the Belarus-1 TV channel that some candidates’ activity was verging on violation of the law.
Candidates to the parliament have reduced in number due to withdrawals by pro-government party representatives and non-party candidates, who backed up leading nomenclature candidates. Some candidates from the opposition were also forced to withdraw from the parliamentary race, most likely, due to the increased pressure from the authorities. However, in order to demonstrate to western observes some improvements in the electoral process the Belarusian authorities have granted registration to some opposition candidates after court proceedings.
Central Election Commission head Yarmoshina has publicly instructed local election organisers to ensure a more strict regulation of oppositional candidates’ activity. The authorities have stepped up interventions in campaigns of opposition candidates and introduced more restrictions on their activities.
The Belarusian state TV Company has cancelled the online broadcast of the debates and banned video sharing from the debates on the internet in order to reduce public response to bright performances by some opposition candidates. That said, during previous election campaigns, parliamentary in 2012 and presidential in 2015, the state TV posted videos of the debates and addresses by candidates, online under a common license. In 2016, the authorities decided to abandon this practice with reference to the Electoral Code. Most likely, the authorities took a notice of the increased influence of the ‘new media’ and realised that their audiences had reduced, in particular among voters soured by the authorities’ current policies.
The authorities are likely to continue to screen candidates, and withdraw doubles from nomenclature and remove some headline-making opposition candidates.
Over the past year, military-political relations between Minsk and Kyiv have become complicated. Due to their high inertia and peculiarities, this downward trend would be extremely difficult to overcome.
The root cause of the crisis is the absence of a common political agenda in the Belarusian-Ukrainian relations. Minsk is looking for a market for Belarusian exports in Ukraine and offers its services as a negotiation platform for the settlement of the Russo-Ukrainian war, thereby hoping to avoid political issues in the dialogue with Kiev. Meanwhile, Ukraine is hoping for political support from Minsk in the confrontation with Moscow. In addition, Ukraine’s integration with NATO presupposes her common position with the Alliance in relation to Belarus. The NATO leadership regards the Belarusian Armed Forces as an integral part of the Russian military machine in the western strategic front (the Baltic states and Poland). In addition, the ongoing military reform in Ukraine envisages a reduction in the number of generals and the domestic political struggle makes some Ukrainian top military leaders targets in politically motivated attacks.
Hence, the criticism of Belarus coming from Ukrainian military leadership is dictated primarily by internal and external political considerations, as well as by the need to protect the interests of generals, and only then by facts.
For instance, initially, the Ukrainian military leadership made statements about 100,000 Russian servicemen allegedly taking part in the Russo-Belarusian military drill West-2017. Then the exercises were labelled quazi-open and military observers from Ukraine refused to provide their assessment, which caused a negative reaction in Minsk. Further, without citing specific facts, it was stated that Russia was building up its military presence in Belarus.
Apparently, the Belarusian and Ukrainian Defence Ministries have entangled in a confrontational spiral (on the level of rhetoric). Moreover, only a small part of the overly hidden process has been disclosed. That said, third states are very likely to take advantage of the situation (or have already done so). This is not only about Russia.
The Belarusian Defence Ministry officials are restrained in assessing their Ukrainian counterparts. However, such a restraint is not enough. Current military-political relations between Belarus and Ukraine are unlikely to stabilise without the intervention of both presidents.