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.
Over the past year, military-political relations between Minsk and Kyiv have become complicated. Due to their high inertia and peculiarities, this downward trend would be extremely difficult to overcome.
The root cause of the crisis is the absence of a common political agenda in the Belarusian-Ukrainian relations. Minsk is looking for a market for Belarusian exports in Ukraine and offers its services as a negotiation platform for the settlement of the Russo-Ukrainian war, thereby hoping to avoid political issues in the dialogue with Kiev. Meanwhile, Ukraine is hoping for political support from Minsk in the confrontation with Moscow. In addition, Ukraine’s integration with NATO presupposes her common position with the Alliance in relation to Belarus. The NATO leadership regards the Belarusian Armed Forces as an integral part of the Russian military machine in the western strategic front (the Baltic states and Poland). In addition, the ongoing military reform in Ukraine envisages a reduction in the number of generals and the domestic political struggle makes some Ukrainian top military leaders targets in politically motivated attacks.
Hence, the criticism of Belarus coming from Ukrainian military leadership is dictated primarily by internal and external political considerations, as well as by the need to protect the interests of generals, and only then by facts.
For instance, initially, the Ukrainian military leadership made statements about 100,000 Russian servicemen allegedly taking part in the Russo-Belarusian military drill West-2017. Then the exercises were labelled quazi-open and military observers from Ukraine refused to provide their assessment, which caused a negative reaction in Minsk. Further, without citing specific facts, it was stated that Russia was building up its military presence in Belarus.
Apparently, the Belarusian and Ukrainian Defence Ministries have entangled in a confrontational spiral (on the level of rhetoric). Moreover, only a small part of the overly hidden process has been disclosed. That said, third states are very likely to take advantage of the situation (or have already done so). This is not only about Russia.
The Belarusian Defence Ministry officials are restrained in assessing their Ukrainian counterparts. However, such a restraint is not enough. Current military-political relations between Belarus and Ukraine are unlikely to stabilise without the intervention of both presidents.