Moscow conditions the parliamentary elections’ recognition with implementation of bilateral agreements
Kremlin promises the recognition of the parliamentary elections in Belarus in exchange for the implementation of bilateral economic agreements. In turn, Belarus will try to get the elections’ recognition and to put off privatization.
On August 14-15, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov was on a working visit in Minsk, meeting with President Lukashenko and Belarusian Foreign Minister Sergei Martynov.
The main public message during Lavrov’s visit was Russia’s willingness to recognize the parliamentary elections to be held in Belarus in September. Minister Lavrov vowed to ensure the participation of Russian observers in several observation missions, which will operate in Belarus during the elections, organized by various international organizations: OSCE Parliamentary Assembly, OSCE/ODIHR and the CIS.
However, these political promises by Lavrov should be considered in the context of the ongoing economic bargaining between Belarus and Russia. In particular, Lavrov reminded President Lukashenko to respect previous agreements with President Putin and Prime Minister Medvedev. The most important of these relate to the privatization of large Belarusian companies, in particular, Belaruskali (discussed during Medvedev’s visit in July) and MAZ (discussed during Putin’s visit in May).
On the eve of the parliamentary elections, the Belarusian authorities face with extremely high external pressure, in particular in the economy. Suspended naphtha deliveries from Russia could have very negative consequences for the economy and increase the likelihood of authorities’ failure to fulfill their main political promises about the USD 500 average salary by the end of 2012.
In this regard, the government might make a concession with regard to privatization, as it was in autumn 2011. For instance, it might put on sale non-strategic assets, such as shares in the Belarusian mobile operator MTS. If so, privatization of industrial enterprises will be delayed until the last moment.
The Belarusian authorities could to step up the opposition representation in local councils, should party members demonstrate potency. The Belarusian leadership is unlikely to have the resources to ensure 100 percent pro-government candidates in the local elections. The authorities have exhausted the grassroot support and have no funds to pay for the loyalty.
The Belarusian Central Election Commission has proposed to hold the elections to the local Councils of Deputies on February 18th, 2018.
The president has repeatedly emphasised the importance of the local councils in the power system and the state machine always tried to ensure the necessary local election results. Candidates have been decreasing in number with each elections and the authorities dealt with that by reducing the deputy corps. That said, during the rule of President Lukashenka, his electoral base has changed substantially. Over the past decade, most Belarusians have moved to cities and lost their local roots. The rural population is ready to support the president, but rural residents are constantly decreasing in number.
The Belarusian leadership is likely to permit broad participation in the election campaign and an increase in alternative representatives in the local councils. However, the opposition would have to boost its activity, so as so far it has been passive in defending its interests. In addition, the authorities, while determining the date for the local elections, have taken into account the fact that the opposition is usually the least active in the winter time.
Overall, both, the opposition and the local authorities have exhausted their grassroot support, however new local leaders may still come on political stage, although the party opposition has not yet shown sufficient aspirations.