Political parties join forces to celebrate Freedom Day; opposition candidates start campaigning
Opposition parties have agreed to coordinate their actions in celebrating the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Belarusian People’s Republic (aka Freedom Day celebrated on March 25th). However, tension in the opposition camp is likely to escalate in the future over the format of celebrations on March 25th. Parties retained political activity in the local elections, despite the fact that many have not passed the screening by the authorities at the candidates’ registration stage.
Opposition organizations have concluded an agreement to hold a joint celebration of the 100th anniversary of the BPR on March 25th, 2018. The Belarusian Popular Front, For Freedom, the United Civic Party, the Belarusian Helsinki Committee and Statkevich-led the Belarusian National Committee participated in the negotiations. Nevertheless, differences in their approaches to the agreement could not be ruled out. Apparently, the BNC anticipates launching street protests in the spring and would like the rally on March 25th to become a trigger. In turn, the BHC is unwilling to confront the authorities and, on the contrary, counts on the loyal attitude of the Belarusian leadership to the anniversary celebrations and on the creation of a festive atmosphere. Opposite expectations of party leaders could rise tension among the opposition and lead to several rallies, especially if the authorities limit celebrations to the Bangalore Square, the traditional venue for opposition events, as it was during the Freedom Day celebrations in 2017.
The campaigning stage of the local elections has started. The reduced number of candidates due to the denial of registration is likely to strengthen the coordination among those parties, which cooperate within the framework of coalition agreements. Opposition organizations struggle to recruit new activists in the election campaign, which was also facilitated by a more severe screening by the election commissions during the documents verification. It is worth noting that first-time nominees, as well as popular leaders of civic initiatives in Minsk were denied registration as candidates most frequently. In fact, all parties had a reduction in nominees, including the centre-right coalition, Tell the Truth and the Social Democrats.
The opposition is likely to focus on the election campaign for the remaining candidates. So far, there are no prospects for an increase in open discontent among the population due to the deterioration of people’s well-being and strengthening of the protest movement, as well, participants in street rallies are likely to decrease in number.