LDPB connections in Russia have no impact at home
Among Belarusian parties, the Liberal Democratic Party maintains the closest contacts with Russia about policy-relevant issues. However, the party’s influence in Belarus is minimal: vertical control system, established by Lukashenko, effectively neutralizes all party’s attempts to benefit from its external policy assets.
On November 5th, Liberal Democratic Party delegation, headed by Deputy Chairman Oleg Gaidukevich, took part in the VII Congress of the People’s Party of South Ossetia in Tskhinvali.
The LDPB traditionally maintained a close working relationship with the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia and - at least at the rhetoric level – is in favor of closer cooperation between Belarus and Russia. In particular, LDPB Chairman Gaidukevich previously advocated for the need to recognize the independence of South Ossetia and Abkhazia, as well as for the introduction of the Russian ruble in Belarus. In South Ossetia LDPB concluded a cooperation agreement with the People’s Party of South Ossetia, as well as the Russian Liberal Democratic Party.
However, the level of bilateral cooperation between the LDPR and LDPB is not high. For example, according to the Party press service, during the visit on October 29 to Moscow, LDPB Chairman Sergey Gaidukevich and his Deputy Oleg Gaidukevich met only with Deputy Chairman of the LDPR Ovsyannikov, not with the Party’s Chairman Vladimir Zhirinovsky or other Russian politicians.
In turn, inside Belarus LDPB statements about the single currency, recognition of the Caucasian republics, and plans for the 2015 presidential election do not have any political effect. For example, the party was de facto barred from the last two election campaigns (parliamentary in 2008 and presidential in 2010), and in the 2012 parliamentary elections, LDPB candidate Mel’nikov had lost the race in the Navabelitski District of Gomel, even though there were no other candidates (according to official data, the majority voted against the only candidate, which was nonsense for the Belarusian elections).
In turn, the LDPB cannot counteract such arbitrariness of the Belarusian authorities. Moreover, the party’s influence is decreasing. In particular, in August Oleg Gaidukevich (son of party’s Chairman Sergei Gaidukevich) left his job as Chief of the Frunze district police department of Minsk and was appointed Deputy Chairman of LDPB. In March 2012, Gaidukevich’s Deputy Chairman Kotsarenko was arrested on corruption charges. Back then he chaired “Tekhnobank’s” Supervisory Board. He is under investigation until today. All these facts point to the weakening of the Gaidukevich’s family in the Belarusian elite.
The Belarusian authorities regard the Catholic conference as yet another international event to promote Minsk as a global negotiating platform. Minsk’s proposal to organise a meeting between the Roman-Catholic Church and the Russian Orthodox Church is rather an image-making undertaking than a serious intention. However, the authorities could somewhat extend the opportunities for the Roman-Catholic Church in Belarus due to developing contacts with the Catholic world.
Minsk is attempting to lay out a mosaic from various international religious, political and sportive events to shape a positive image of Belarus for promoting the Helsinki 2.0 idea.
Belarus’ invitation to the head of the Holy See for a meeting with the Patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church should be regarded as a continuation of her foreign policy efforts in shaping Minsk’s peacekeeping image and enhancing Belarus’ international weight. The Belarusian authorities are aware that their initiative is unlikely to find supporters among the leadership of the Russian Orthodox Church in Moscow. In Russia, isolationist sentiments prevail.
In addition, for domestic audiences, the authorities make up for the lack of tangible economic growth with demonstrations of growth in Minsk’s authority at international level through providing a platform for religious, sportive and other dialogues.