2012 Elections: the opposition is as split as ever
On March 6, “Fair World” party announced that it will participate in the Parliamentary elections in the autumn 2012.
Following the statement by the “Fair World” party the opposition forces could be divided into at least four groups with different approaches to the participation in the campaign:
1. Active boycott of the nomination of candidates and their removal from the race right before the voting (UCP).
2. Full participation in the election campaign (“Fair World” party).
3. Boycott of the elections and organization of monitoring of violations (not registered Belarusian Christian Democracy party, not registered movement “Belaruski rukh” and the organizing committee of the People’s Assembly).
4. Unclear position of holding consultations with the “civil society” about the format of participation in the campaign (the remaining part of the so-called “Coalition of the six”: Belarusian Popular Front Party, “Tell the Truth!” civil campaign, the Belarusian Social Democratic Party (Hramada) and the “For Freedom” movement).
The fact that there are so many political actors with different interests 4 months prior to the start of the campaign, implies, most likely, that the opposition will fail to come up with a unified strategy.
Moreover, it is very likely that the split among the political opposition will continue and they will pursue own interests on a wider scale: be it organization of election monitoring or election of a new parliament.
The Belarusian authorities are attempting to strengthen some elements of the ‘Soviet’ education to ensure the ideological loyalty of new generations to the state. Most likely, one of the major tasks of the educational reform is to prevent growing discontent with the existing education system among the population. The educational reform aims to strengthen centralisation and adjust the system to the needs of the public sector.
In Belarus, the Ministry of Labour and Social Protection and the Ministry of Economy would determine the university enrolment figures.
The Belarusian authorities do not seem to have a long-term vision of the educational reform. The education system changes depending on who leads the Education Ministry and has access to President Lukashenka. For instance, former head of pro-government communist party and Education Minister Igor Karpenko reintroduced some "Soviet" elements to the school and strengthened ideological components along with the de-politicisation of the curricula. Current generation of students and youth have not spoken against the authorities, unlike previous generations raised during the Gorbachev thaw and socio-political transformations of the 1990s.
In addition, the Belarusian authorities are attempting to adopt measures aiming to prevent discontent among the population with the Belarusian education system. The authorities are mobilizing those nostalgic for the USSR and propose to return to 5-marks grading system, school uniforms and reduced curriculum. The Belarusian leadership also aims to blur the growing social stratification in society and to relax social tension due to the growing income gap between the richest and poorest.
Should the authorities adopt plans to reduce university enrolment, they would re-certify universities in order to close some of them and would reduce competition from private educational institutions. The Belarusian leadership is attempting to adjust the education system to the needs of the real economy, to reduce pressure on the labour market and to cut government spending on higher education for specialists low in demand by replacing them with graduates of secondary vocational schools requiring less time to train.