Bargaining for political reform in Belarus continues
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.
Over the past year, military-political relations between Minsk and Kyiv have become complicated. Due to their high inertia and peculiarities, this downward trend would be extremely difficult to overcome.
The root cause of the crisis is the absence of a common political agenda in the Belarusian-Ukrainian relations. Minsk is looking for a market for Belarusian exports in Ukraine and offers its services as a negotiation platform for the settlement of the Russo-Ukrainian war, thereby hoping to avoid political issues in the dialogue with Kiev. Meanwhile, Ukraine is hoping for political support from Minsk in the confrontation with Moscow. In addition, Ukraine’s integration with NATO presupposes her common position with the Alliance in relation to Belarus. The NATO leadership regards the Belarusian Armed Forces as an integral part of the Russian military machine in the western strategic front (the Baltic states and Poland). In addition, the ongoing military reform in Ukraine envisages a reduction in the number of generals and the domestic political struggle makes some Ukrainian top military leaders targets in politically motivated attacks.
Hence, the criticism of Belarus coming from Ukrainian military leadership is dictated primarily by internal and external political considerations, as well as by the need to protect the interests of generals, and only then by facts.
For instance, initially, the Ukrainian military leadership made statements about 100,000 Russian servicemen allegedly taking part in the Russo-Belarusian military drill West-2017. Then the exercises were labelled quazi-open and military observers from Ukraine refused to provide their assessment, which caused a negative reaction in Minsk. Further, without citing specific facts, it was stated that Russia was building up its military presence in Belarus.
Apparently, the Belarusian and Ukrainian Defence Ministries have entangled in a confrontational spiral (on the level of rhetoric). Moreover, only a small part of the overly hidden process has been disclosed. That said, third states are very likely to take advantage of the situation (or have already done so). This is not only about Russia.
The Belarusian Defence Ministry officials are restrained in assessing their Ukrainian counterparts. However, such a restraint is not enough. Current military-political relations between Belarus and Ukraine are unlikely to stabilise without the intervention of both presidents.