Authorities’ plan for the parliamentary elections shapes up
The Belarusian authorities are attempting to restore a political dialogue with the West, using the upcoming parliamentary election campaign. At the same time they intend to avoid major changes in the status of the Parliament (in both, domestic and foreign policy) and in the election process.
On February 6, Chairman of the United Civil Party Anatol Lyabedzka said that as a result of the elections authorities intend to create a “quazi-oppositional” political party in the Parliament. According to Mr. Lyabedzka, this project is supervised by the Belarusian KGB.
The keen intensification of the relations between Belarus and the EU in February 2012 indicates that governmental elites close to Lukashenko launched a campaign to revive a political dialogue with the EU. For instance, on 2 February Brussels based Office for a Democratic Belarus, submitted to the European Parliament a list of Belarusian citizens suggesting to lift the EU visa ban for them. On February 3, Latvian Foreign Ministry State Secretary A. Teikmanis paid an official visit to Minsk and, inter alia, discussed the fate of political prisoners with the Head of the Presidential Administration Vladimir Makey.
On February 8-10, Head of the European Commission’s Unit for Relations with Russia as well as the acting director for Eastern Europe, Southern Caucasus, and Central Asia, in the Commission’s Directorate-General for External Relations Mr. Wiegand arrived in Minsk. He also discussed the fate of political prisoners. On 9 February, the OSCE leadership urged Belarus to renew the mandate of the field presence of this organization in Minsk. In response, on 10 February President Alexander Lukashenko said he was willing to preserve the continuity of the new Parliament, only at 20-25% (record low).
In these circumstances, the opposition parties see the danger of them falling out of a dialogue between the Belarusian authorities and the EU. As well, the Presidential administration is not interested in the opposition parties to get into the Parliament and to “disturb” its well-tempered work. Therefore, the scenario when “designated” opposition is elected to the Parliament is feasible on principle. However it is not excluded that it is not the KGB who is in charge, usually the Presidential Administration deals with it.
For obvious reasons, the statement of Mr. Lyabedzka is extremely difficult to confirm. Nevertheless, it has primarily safety implications: if the UCP is not able to influence the course of the campaign (which is very likely), while other members of the opposition parties or social movements are able to get into the Parliament (which is unlikely, but possible), then the argument about the collaboration with the KGB will be a universal explanation of success of some politicians and failures of others.
The statement of Mr. Lyabedzka not only points out to the growing crisis of mutual trust within the opposition, but also burns bridges for the UCP. On 6 February the UCP announced its support of an active boycott of the election campaign. The UCP will nominate its members and will use the campaign to inform the population about the absence of democratic institutions in Belarus and then will withdraw all candidates before the voting starts.
President Lukashenka continues to rotate staff and rejuvenate heads of departments and universities following new appointments in regional administrations. Apparently, new Information Minister Karliukevich could somewhat relax the state policy towards the independent media and introduce technological solutions for retaining control over Belarus’ information space. New rectors could strengthen the trend for soft Belarusization in the regions and tighten the disciplinary and ideological control over the student movement in the capital.
President Lukashenka has appointed new ministers of culture and information, the new rector of the Belarusian State University and heads of three universities, assistants in the Minsk and Vitebsk regions.
The new Information Minister Karliukevich is likely to avoid controversial initiatives similar to those former Minister Ananich was famous for, however, certainly within his capacities. Nevertheless, the appointment of Belarusian-speaking writer Karliukevich could be regarded as the state’s cautious attempt to relax environment in the media field and ensure the sovereignty of national media.
The Belarusian leadership has consolidated the trend for mild Belarusization by appointing a young historian and a ‘reasonable nationalist’, Duk as the rector at the Kuleshov State University in Mogilev. Meanwhile, while choosing the head of the Belarusian State University, the president apparently had in mind the strengthening of the ideological loyalty among the teaching staff and students at the main university in order to keep the youth movement at bay. Previously, Korol was the rector of the Kupala State University in Grodno, where he held purges among the disloyal teaching staff.
The trend for the renewal of mid-ranking executives and their rejuvenation has confirmed. The age of the Culture Minister and three new rectors varies from 39 to 44 years old.