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 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.