Political parties boost election campaigning, human rights activists reiterate the political prisoners issue
Political parties are attempting to mobilise their activists to participate in the ongoing local election campaign, but have little success amid the low interest in the campaign from the media and the population. Tell the Truth! is attempting to engage local population, which is most discontent with the current socio-economic policy and is willing to apply pressure on the authorities within the legal framework, in the campaign. Some opposition parties have focused on human rights issues to strengthen the conditionality of the Belarusian-European dialogue.
So far, the ongoing local election campaign, which is characterised by very few opposition representatives in the territorial election commissions (7 out of 10500), has been low-profile for the independent media and civil society. Nevertheless, registered parties have increased their nominees to the district commissions. In addition, opposition parties are attempting to promote the local elections among the population and mobilize citizens for participation in the campaign. For instance, regional forums held by Tell the Truth! have demonstrated the growth in interest in alternative proposals from the political opposition among the population: according to the organizers, more than 300 people participated in their events. Most likely, discontent with the authorities’ socio-economic policies is quite high in the regions, however it does not translate into open forms of street activity or confrontation with law enforcement, rather transforms into non-conflict participation.
The electoral activity in the regions is likely to be higher than in the capital, which traditionally reports low turnout, mainly ensured by early voting and ‘compulsory’ voting. Some pro-government political parties (for instance, the Communist Party, Liberal Democrats and Work and Justice Republican Party) aim to boost pressure on the Belarusian leadership, to nominate more candidates than in the previous local elections, to demonstrate the growing need for parties and local self-government in the Belarusian society.
In turn, some opposition parties are attempting to bring political issues back to the international agenda and domestic media space. Belarusian human rights activists have enhanced the information pressure on the Belarusian authorities to mitigate the attitude of penitentiary to convicts and organized an international campaign with the help of Amnesty International in support for Dmitry Polienko, a prisoner of conscience. Right-centrists and some other parties have reiterated the problem of political prisoners at the fifth Political Prisoners Forum. According to different assessments by the Belarusian opposition and human rights defenders, there are 2 to 9 political prisoners in Belarus. In addition, human rights activists continue to promote reforms in the Belarusian army after a public outcry following the deaths of servicemen in military units. The country's top leadership has been prompted to respond to public pressure and take additional measures to build trust of the population.
Political parties are likely to have hard times overcoming the apathy and the lack of interest among the population in the local elections, especially in the capital. However, in the regions, the opposition has better chances to mobilise the population groups which formed the core of the protest movement against the decree on social dependants earlier this year, and those ready to apply non-conflict forms of pressure on the authorities.