Ahead of presidential elections differences among Belarusian opposition grow
The fact that one of the prominent and popular opposition leaders Uladzimir Nyaklyaeu has announced his divorce from the opposition means that internal differences among the opposition have grown. The opposition has no real opportunities to influence the power change in Belarus so they demonstrate low political consolidation and unwillingness to act together in the upcoming election campaign. Following Nyaklyaeu’s announcement about leaving “Tell the Truth!” campaign, the chances of the opposition to nominate a single opposition candidate have somewhat increased.
On April 8th, Uladzimir Nyaklyaeu, leader of “Tell the Truth!" civil campaign and presidential candidate in the 2010 elections, announced his departure from the opposition structures.
Seven leading opposition organisations have been negotiating the nomination of a single opposition candidate for quite a while and until now have not reached the compromise. Media reported that participants in the negotiations once again abandoned the idea of holding the Congress of Democratic Forces, which could nominate the single opposition candidate for the upcoming presidential elections.
According to Nyaklyaeu, the main reason behind his divorce from the opposition was the opposion’s failure to agree on the ‘single candidate’ nomination procedure. Prior to Nyaklyaeu’s decision, “For Freedom” movement, “Tell the Truth!” partner in the “People’s Referendum” campaign issued a statement that it would not nominate own and would not support other candidates in the presidential race. In response, “Tell the Truth!” proposed to nominate activist Tatyana Karatkevch as a single candidate from the "People’s referendum" campaign.
Interestingly, for the first time in the past two decades the opposition has not declared the change in the country’s leadership as their primary aim in the presidential elections. Although the opposition has abandoned its plans to hold a ‘colour revolution’ and change the regime following mass protests on the election day, it still has not come up with a full-fledged alternative to ‘Maidan’. Wider opposition has not supported the strategy of peaceful change proposed by the “People’s Referendum” initiators.
Amid the lack of hope in the opposition for change in the Belarusian regime, the competition for resources and leadership has increased among the opposition organisations and within existing coalitions. Opposition parties fear that the party, which leader will be supported as a ‘single candidate’, may monopolise all resources. Consequently, neither party has a decisive advantage to force its scenario in nominating the ‘single candidate’ and blocks opponent’s initiatives for the Congress of Democratic Forces. Nyaklyaeu’s departure from the “Tell the Truth” campaign in theory removes controversy between the political parties, enabling them to unite around the former leader of the “Tell the truth!” campaign.
In addition, Nyaklyaeu has the potential to create a non-partisan movement as an opposition politician with the highest popular rating. Recent IISEPS’ poll suggests, that amid declined support for the incumbent president, Nyaklyaeu’s electoral rating as a likely candidate for the presidency in 2015 has grown to 7.6% (even higher in a closed question - 9.4%).
The Belarusian authorities are attempting to stir up the opposition ahead of the presidential elections too. The Central Election Commission has proposed some innovations in the organization of the election campaign, which, however, will not have a decisive influence on the official election results. For example, the CEC announced that transparent ballot boxes would be installed in major Belarusian cities.
In theory, Uladzimir Nyaklyaeu, now non-partisan popular leader, could unite different political parties in the upcoming elections, however, chances for this to materialise remain low.
The rapid increase in wages has led to a decline in the ratio between labour productivity and real wages to one. Previously, the rule was that enterprises, in which the state owned more than 50% of shares in the founding capital, were not allowed increasing salaries if this ratio was equal to or less than one. The authorities are unlikely to be able to meet the wage growth requirement without long-term consequences for the economy. Hence, the government is likely to contain wage growth for the sake of economic growth.
According to Belstat, In January – August 2017, GDP growth was 1.6%. The economic revival has led to an increase in wages. In August, the average monthly wage was BYN 844.4 or USD 435, i.e. grew by 6.6% since early 2017, adjusted for inflation. This has reduced the ratio between labour productivity and real wages from 1.03 in January 2017 to 1 in the first seven months of 2017. This parameter should not be less than 1, otherwise, the economy starts accumulating imbalances.
The need for faster growth in labour productivity over wage growth was stated in Decree No 744 of July 31st, 2014. The decree enabled wages growth at state organizations and organizations with more than 50% of state-owned shares only if the ratio between growth in labour productivity and wages was higher than 1. Taking into account the state's share in the economy, this rule has had impact on most of the country's key enterprises. In 2013 -2014 wages grew rapidly, which resulted in devaluation in 2014-2015.
Faster wage growth as compared with growth in labour productivity carries a number of risks. Enterprises increase cost of wages, which subsequently leads to a decrease in the competitiveness of products on the domestic and foreign markets. In construction, wholesale, retail trade, and some other industries the growth rate of prime cost in 2017 outpaces the dynamics of revenue growth. This is likely to lead to a decrease in profits and a decrease in investments for further development. Amid wage growth, the population is likely to increase import consumption and reduce currency sales, which would reduce the National Bank's ability to repay foreign and domestic liabilities.
The Belarusian government is facing a dilemma – either to comply with the president’s requirement of a BYN 1000 monthly wage, which could lead to new economic imbalances and could further affect the national currency value, or to suspend the wage growth in order to retain the achieved economic results. That said, the first option bears a greater number of negative consequences for the nomenclature.
Overall, the rapid growth in wages no longer corresponds the pace of economic development. The government is likely to retain the economic growth and retrain further growth in wages. Staff reshuffles are unlikely to follow the failure to meet the wage growth requirement.