Belarusian authorities aim to restrict candidates activity
Despite the holiday season, political activity has boosted in Belarusian society, which prompted the authorities to downsize potential parliamentary candidates. Opposition candidates have attracted public attention with bright performances during the debates on public television. The government is likely to continue to narrow down the campaigning framework for the opposition candidates.
CEC head Lidziya Yarmoshyna told the Belarus-1 TV channel that some candidates’ activity was verging on violation of the law.
Candidates to the parliament have reduced in number due to withdrawals by pro-government party representatives and non-party candidates, who backed up leading nomenclature candidates. Some candidates from the opposition were also forced to withdraw from the parliamentary race, most likely, due to the increased pressure from the authorities. However, in order to demonstrate to western observes some improvements in the electoral process the Belarusian authorities have granted registration to some opposition candidates after court proceedings.
Central Election Commission head Yarmoshina has publicly instructed local election organisers to ensure a more strict regulation of oppositional candidates’ activity. The authorities have stepped up interventions in campaigns of opposition candidates and introduced more restrictions on their activities.
The Belarusian state TV Company has cancelled the online broadcast of the debates and banned video sharing from the debates on the internet in order to reduce public response to bright performances by some opposition candidates. That said, during previous election campaigns, parliamentary in 2012 and presidential in 2015, the state TV posted videos of the debates and addresses by candidates, online under a common license. In 2016, the authorities decided to abandon this practice with reference to the Electoral Code. Most likely, the authorities took a notice of the increased influence of the ‘new media’ and realised that their audiences had reduced, in particular among voters soured by the authorities’ current policies.
The authorities are likely to continue to screen candidates, and withdraw doubles from nomenclature and remove some headline-making opposition candidates.
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.