Belarusian authorities improve transparency of election procedures but disable control from opposition
The Belarusian leadership has combined a formal greater procedural transparency with excluding the opposition from having any control over the voting results. Apparently, in order to preserve the positive dynamics in the Belarusian-European relations, the authorities are likely to be satisfied if international observers recognise a limited progress in the upcoming election campaign. Despite greater procedural transparency, mainly aimed at western observers, the Belarusian authorities will preserve the usual election practices.
The Belarusian authorities decided not to allow the opposition to participate in organising the elections, while they could demonstrate substantial progress and allow some opposition members to the vote count. Currently, opposition members in precinct election commissions across the country, like in all recent elections, make a negligible 0.1%.
Opposition members, who were selected to the election commissions, will perform their duties in areas with high government approval ratings, strong pro-government candidates and an expected high turnout. Election officials have not allowed a single opposition representative in election districts with strong opposition nominees to the Parliament.
That said, the authorities have allowed more opposition party representatives in the election commissions, who in one way or another associate with the power system. For example, yet since the Soviet era former communists from the Fair World party have preserved their connections with the local authorities and they are the least likely to confront their ‘counterparts’ in a conflict situation.
Simultaneously, the authorities continue using pro-government parties to fill in legislative quotas for public association in the election commissions. However, non-partisan pro-government candidates are under instruction to show greater publicity and contact with the voters during elections, especially in the capital. Most likely, this is due to the need to step up propaganda work in regions with low ratings of the authorities, rather than the fear of non-performing the official election results. Having Western observers in mind, the Belarusian authorities are attempting to create an atmosphere of competitive elections without predetermined results.
The Belarusian authorities are balancing between ensuring the transparency of the electoral process and not allowing the opposition to have any control over the election organisers.
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.