Belarusian authorities introduce some competition and uncertainty in electoral process
The Belarusian authorities have somewhat reduced campaigning participants in number in order to preserve control over the election process, but nevertheless allowed high competition for parliamentary seats to ensure high turnout. The Belarusian leadership is aiming for a well-handled competition among the opposition and candidates from pro-governmental political parties and nomenclature. Presumably, the authorities have left room for some intrigue in the election campaign in order to step up their positions in negotiations with the west.
521 candidates will compete for seats in the lower chamber of the Belarusian National Assembly of the sixth convocation.
During the candidates’ registration process, the most careful screening of potential candidates to the parliament was in the regions. Election participants from the opposition have marked a substantial increase in those dissatisfied with the authorities’ socio-economic policy in Belarusian regions and district centres. Most likely, the Central Election Commission has given some leeway to local election organizers, depending on local context. In some regions, local election commissions were stricter when screening candidates for further participation in the campaign.
In Minsk, the authorities have not registered the most resonant and undesirable candidates, who were annoyingly critical of them or used non-conventional ways to collect signatures. For example, the election officials have not registered lieutenant colonel of militia in reserve Nikolay Kozlov from the United Civic Party and political analyst Ales Lahviniec from the For Freedom movement.
Some independent analysts have noted, that the authorities increased the chances for some moderate opposition representatives with nationalistic-cultural background to win parliamentary seats. For instance, in the constituencies, where candidates included representatives of the Belarusian Language Society Aleh Trusau and Alena Anisim, the authorities have not registered major contenders from the nomenclature. Yet the issue with the registration of former presidential candidate Tatsiana Karatkevich from the Tell the Truth campaign as a candidate has not been resolved. The final decision on registering opposition candidates to the parliament is likely to be pending at the highest level.
Apparently, the authorities have introduced some elements of competition among nomenclature candidates for parliament. In some districts in Mogilev, Brest and Grodno regions and in Minsk, the authorities have registered nomenclature candidates who have equal political weight. Everything suggests that the authorities are probing the elements of ‘managed democracy’ and introducing an additional layer in the Belarusian political system.
By introducing elements of competition and some unpredictability in the election process, the Belarusian authorities are hoping for a positive feedback from Western observers.
President Lukashenka continues to rotate staff and rejuvenate heads of departments and universities following new appointments in regional administrations. Apparently, new Information Minister Karliukevich could somewhat relax the state policy towards the independent media and introduce technological solutions for retaining control over Belarus’ information space. New rectors could strengthen the trend for soft Belarusization in the regions and tighten the disciplinary and ideological control over the student movement in the capital.
President Lukashenka has appointed new ministers of culture and information, the new rector of the Belarusian State University and heads of three universities, assistants in the Minsk and Vitebsk regions.
The new Information Minister Karliukevich is likely to avoid controversial initiatives similar to those former Minister Ananich was famous for, however, certainly within his capacities. Nevertheless, the appointment of Belarusian-speaking writer Karliukevich could be regarded as the state’s cautious attempt to relax environment in the media field and ensure the sovereignty of national media.
The Belarusian leadership has consolidated the trend for mild Belarusization by appointing a young historian and a ‘reasonable nationalist’, Duk as the rector at the Kuleshov State University in Mogilev. Meanwhile, while choosing the head of the Belarusian State University, the president apparently had in mind the strengthening of the ideological loyalty among the teaching staff and students at the main university in order to keep the youth movement at bay. Previously, Korol was the rector of the Kupala State University in Grodno, where he held purges among the disloyal teaching staff.
The trend for the renewal of mid-ranking executives and their rejuvenation has confirmed. The age of the Culture Minister and three new rectors varies from 39 to 44 years old.