Campaigning successes and failures of the government and the opposition

April 22, 2016 18:18

Elections as an institution have become further discredited during the electoral camapaign: government candidates, supporters and advocates for the boycott, as well as members of the opposition in favour of participating in the elections, - all contributed to discrediting the elections, regardless of the contradictions between them. As a result, the populations’ confidence in the government is likely to decrease.

Campaigning opportunities are strictly limited to one TV performance for a maximum of five minutes and one five-minute radio performance. 

Compared to previous parliamentary campaigns, the campaigning framework for the 2012 parliamentary elections is slightly broader, , i.e. TV debates were introduced in addition to (or, rather, instead of) the allowed presentations and publications,:the candidates can have a five-minute performance during the debates on TV, and a five-minute presentation during radio debates.

In addition, the CEC allowed representatives of candidates to participate in TV and radio debates (if they were not candidates themselves, CEC resolution No 122 of 09.05.2012).

TV debates put governmental candidates in a difficult situation, and few of them have agreed to take part in them. The fact is that the passage to the Parliament based on the approved lists does not imply working with voters. Therefore, candidates from the government were tasked not to show too much interest in the elections, the more so, any political passion, but at the same time they should not leave voters indifferent. These candidates coped with the first task, but not with the second. The candidates had little interest in meeting with the voters and / or their opponents, which emphasized the pro forma nature of the elections. 

The main goal of the boycott campaign by some candidates (United Civic Party, the organizing committee of the Belarusian Christian Democracy, the Belarusian Popular Front) was to state their moral position regarding political prisoners, and to emphasize the unfair elections conditions. This goal has been achieved.

As it would be impossible to organize a total boycott in the given circumstances, boycott supporters elaborated two success criteria: 1. voter turnout is less than 50%; 2. lack of declarations by 70% of voters that the elections were free and fair.

While campaigning, supporters of participating in the elections (“For Freedom”, “Tell the Truth”, the Belarusian Popular Front) aimed to reach out beyond the “opposition ghetto” and to find support among the “new majority”. They tested new forms and technologies, new candidates, which could attract people.

All in all, the campaigning has demonstrated a low level of public trust in the elections since the start.

Meetings with government candidates at workplaces were held on a compulsory participation basis and open actions by alternative candidates did not provoke interest either. The campaigning only deepened the citizens’ disbelief in the importance of their vote.

Discredit of the elections per se is becoming a major challenge for all political actors, and would require different approaches to gaining the population’s support.