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.
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.