Belarusian authorities may allow some liberalisation before parliamentary campaign
The authorities are improving election procedures and training election officials in order to reduce criticism by international observers. However, the president confirmed that approaches to elections and coordination of the deputies in the new parliament would remain unchanged. The authorities are likely to allow some liberalisation during the campaigning stage, but they will fully control the work of election commissions and the voting results.
While addressing the nation and the Parliament before the upcoming parliamentary elections, President Lukashenka praised the work of the current Parliament.
This year, the parliamentary campaign will be held under the new rules, which will facilitate organisation of the elections and will help ensuring the necessary results.
So far, most Belarusians did not agree with the Belarusian opposition and human rights defenders about the election fraud. The authorities are likely to attempt to preserve the current level of public confidence in the election procedures, which allows them to relieve tension in society over unpopular decisions.
Amid socio-economic failures and falling popular ratings of the state institutions, the Belarusian authorities do not have to demonstrate a high level of support for their nominees. A simple majority of votes would be enough for a candidate to win a seat in the Parliament.
Most unwanted opponents will be filtered on the regional level - by territorial commissions formed by regional officials. They are unlikely to register opposition candidates, who overly politicise their social and economic demands, the more so, as the authorities are expecting a large number of opposition nominees.
Simultaneously, the Central Election Commission has been using a more liberal rhetoric in order to backup the authorities’ dialogue with Western capitals. For instance, during a seminar regarding quango Belaya Rus’ participation in the parliamentary elections, CEC head Yarmoshina made some critical comments and quite liberal statements about the organization of the election campaign.
In particular, she encouraged officials and organizers of the election campaign in the regions to liberalise the parliamentary election campaign by increasing campaigning opportunities and granting access to the state media for the opponents.
The authorities are set to use the Internet and social networks more actively in the upcoming election campaign. They are likely to attempt to reach out to a new non-conventional group - younger voters, due to the narrowing of their traditional electorate.
In addition, the president emphasised his special role in the parliamentary campaign when he said that some MPs had already been seeking for his"support in the next elections”. He promised to preserve continuity in the Parliament and save about one-third of seats for today’s deputies.
That said, the president emphasised the importance of loyalty of the candidates, "they should not be some puppet deputies of governors or somebody else’s, they must be the best people of our country”.
The Belarusian authorities have no plans to change the existing balance among public institutions or strengthen the role of the Parliament. According to the president, the main task for the new parliament is “raising the political profile of Belarus, and actively promoting economic interests of our country”.
The authorities will attempt to demonstrate greater transparency in organising the elections to international observers and the opposition is likely to get wider pro forma opportunities for campaigning.