Administrative Reform Creates New Opportunities for Opposition
Chairman of the Central Election Commission Ms. Ermoshina said, that village Council of Deputies could be abolished in Belarus.
Administrative reforms will elevate the role of local authorities within the Belarusian power structure. Due to fewer candidates for the 2014 local elections, local elections will carry more weight. Consequently, the structural role of political forces that take part in these elections will also increase.
Administrative filed reform should be regarded as part of the reforms initiated in the Belarus’ state apparatus. The Central Election Commission’s main argument in favor of the abolition of the village Soviets is to save about 30% of the funds allocated for the local elections campaign.
So far, these proposals are under discussion, but the scale of reforms is essential, and has already been called “revolutionary”. In 2010, 1495 local Councils were formed in Belarus, of which 1288 – village Councils. 15 329 Deputies were elected to the village Councils. By scrapping these local authorities, the government hopes to save money allocated for the election campaign, as well as for maintenance of local governments in the period between elections.
In political terms, the administrative reform, if implemented, will have several effects. First, the competition for the seats in the Deputy Councils of higher level (regional, city and district) will increase. Second, the administrative weight of the remaining local Deputies is bound to increase due to the assumption of functions previously performed by village Deputies.
As a result, the government will be forced to tighten control over the electoral process, and in particular, making sure that political opponents do not win seats in the new Councils. In turn, the increased attention by the authorities to all the participants of the upcoming campaign will enable the opposition to become more active in the political arena starting early 2013. It is anticipated, that the campaign will be launched in December 2013.
The Belarusian authorities regard the Catholic conference as yet another international event to promote Minsk as a global negotiating platform. Minsk’s proposal to organise a meeting between the Roman-Catholic Church and the Russian Orthodox Church is rather an image-making undertaking than a serious intention. However, the authorities could somewhat extend the opportunities for the Roman-Catholic Church in Belarus due to developing contacts with the Catholic world.
Minsk is attempting to lay out a mosaic from various international religious, political and sportive events to shape a positive image of Belarus for promoting the Helsinki 2.0 idea.
Belarus’ invitation to the head of the Holy See for a meeting with the Patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church should be regarded as a continuation of her foreign policy efforts in shaping Minsk’s peacekeeping image and enhancing Belarus’ international weight. The Belarusian authorities are aware that their initiative is unlikely to find supporters among the leadership of the Russian Orthodox Church in Moscow. In Russia, isolationist sentiments prevail.
In addition, for domestic audiences, the authorities make up for the lack of tangible economic growth with demonstrations of growth in Minsk’s authority at international level through providing a platform for religious, sportive and other dialogues.