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.
President Lukashenka has met with the head of Chechnya Ramzan Kadyrov, who visited Minsk and the Minsk Automobile Plant. Minsk has always sought to have independent links with Russian regional elites, partially, to compensate for the Kremlin's diminishing interest in Belarus. In recent years, Belarus’ contacts with the Russian regions have been extremely intense. However, with some leaders of Russian regions, primarily heads of large republics, communication was more difficult to build. As many analysts in Minsk suggested, Minsk could regard contacts between President Lukashenka and the head of Chechnya as an additional communication channel for relieving tension in relations with the Kremlin. However, most likely, a trusting relationship with Kadyrov is a value for Minsk as such, provided Kadyrov’s broad business and political interests, and a high degree of autonomy for the Chechen leader from the Kremlin.