Bargaining for political reform in Belarus continues

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April 22, 2016 18:10

On May 8 while delivering the State of the Nation Address to the Belarusian people and the National Assembly, the President said that the draft project for the introduction of the proportional majority electoral system had been prepared long ago. He pointed out that he personally did not approve of the reform but would not object to following the “world’s experience” on the subject.

President Lukashenko is fully aware that the Belarusian governing establishment and Western political counterparts of the Republic of Belarus are very much concerned with the transition to a proportional electoral system in the upcoming parliamentary election. Within the Republic of Belarus, the issue presents interest for the officials and deputies, representing the QUANGO \"Belaya Rus\". They have repeatedly expressed their willingness to be transformed into a political party.

Therefore, in 2011-2012 before elections to the National Assembly, Alexander Lukashenko regularly turns to the subject that allows him to bargain with regional and local elites over the formation of the parliament, as well as issues of regional governing. At the same time, his promise to possibly reform the political system also allows to maintain a standby dialogue with the EU.

However, the electoral reform which is expected to increase the role of political parties in shaping the external and internal policy of Belarus, does not comply with Lukashenko’s personal interests.

Therefore, the head of the state is actively promoting the Investigation Committee established in 2012 as an alternative platform which can be used to balance the interests within the state.

Nominally, the Investigation Committee is a law enforcement agency which is entitled to conduct a preliminary investigation. But it, in fact, must perform a more significant managerial role: to function as an arbiter in disputes arising between the elites. Therefore, in his State of the Nation Address, the president mentioned the positive role of the Investigation Committee in the fight against corruption and \"racketeering\" business by other law enforcement agencies.

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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.

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