Political parties liaise with protest initiatives; the opposition has different scenarios for 2020 campaign
Political organizations continue to build contacts with new protest audiences and civic initiatives on high-profile issues: Tell The Truth – with parents of schoolchildren; the Belarusian Christian Democracy – with relatives of convicted low and mid-ranking officials; and For Freedom and the United Civic Party – with activists opposing urban construction and on environmental issues. Public protest leaders aim to use the legal framework of the upcoming presidential campaign to reach out to critics of Lukashenka’s regime.
Kazlou from the UCP, Yanukevich from the BPF, Hubarevich from For Freedom, Sevyarynets from the BCD and self-nominated bidders Kavalkova from the BCD and former MP Kanapatskaya, all aim to participate in the primaries within a broad coalition. After all potential participants have placed their bids for the primaries, tension among the broad coalition members has grown due to differences in approaches to the organization of the campaign and public protests, and the conflict between the UCP leadership and former MP Kanapatskaya. BSDP "Hramada" has presented a draft Constitution, envisaging the abolition of the presidency, which could be interpreted as an attempt to unite critics of Lukashenka under one umbrella.
Narodnaya Hramada, led by Statkevich, anticipates multiplying the positive experience of working with local protest voters during the 2019 electoral campaign. Statkevich aims to register dozens of initiative groups of “protest candidates” and use the collection of signatures to consolidate local harsh critics of the current authorities. That said, Narodnaya Hramada and European Belarus, their partners in the Belarusian National Committee, sympathize with the current favorite in the primaries, Pavel Sevyarynets.
High profile protest groups appear to have increased their chances for some concessions from the authorities. For instance, a group defending the Grushauski park in Minsk has prompted the top leadership to respond to their appeals and promise to stop further urban development to preserve the park. The “Fair Sentence” civic initiative uniting relatives of prisoners charged with corruption is building contacts with human rights defenders and party opposition to lobby amendments to anti-corruption legislation.
Tell The Truth continues to promote the initiative aimed at protecting the interests of parents discontent with endless informal fees at kindergartens and public schools. Simultaneously, amid looming presidential elections, local authorities appear to have become more sensitive to demands put forward by civic initiatives. For instance, the Polatsk district prosecutor's office has sided with parents and held local education officials liable for soliciting informal fees.
Overall, mutual criticism among political organizations amid the fight for boycott voters and public activists is likely to continue in the future.