Belarusian nomenclature may step up clandestine struggle for seats in new Parliament
The upper chamber of the Belarusian parliament is an institution, which is used by the authorities to coordinate interests among regional nomenclature groups and with the central leadership. Presumably, the ongoing election campaign to the Council of the Republic will receive scarce coverage by the media and will pass unnoticed by the voters due to the lack of open competition. However, along with the increased competition in the lower chamber, regional nomenclature may step up behind-the-scenes competition for the seats in the upper chamber.
The election campaign to the upper chamber of the Belarusian Parliament, the Council of the Republic, has been launched in Belarus.
Belarusian electorate has demonstrated virtually no interest in the elections to the upper parliament chamber. Largely, this is due to the fact, that the elections to the Council of the Republic are non-public and do not require voters’ participation. Often, the names of senators become known only after the elections. Regional and local administrations and the president control the nomination and the election process. Each oblast and Minsk delegate eight members and the president nominates eight members.
According to the state media, the upper chamber elections held unopposed, and voters supported all candidates proposed by the local authorities. There were no reports of protest voting or disapproval of candidates by the local councils. This means, that regional nomenclature groups approve their candidates in advance and coordinate their nominees with the top leadership.
That said, media provides little coverage for the Council of the Republic activities, only rare official messages, with the exception of cases when an influential person or a well-known person becomes a deputy. For instance, the media broadly covered activities of ex-prime minister Mikhail Myasnikovich after his nomination as the Council of the Republic head. To be on the fair side, he was quite active and often stepped beyond the functions of his office. Most likely, the media was rather interested in his activities, which echoed his PM functions.
As a rule, representatives from all economic sectors are represented in the Council of the Republic. Interestingly, together with representatives from the education, health, industry, state-run media, sport and culture spheres, the authorities approve representatives from large private businesses. However, the largest group in the Council of the Republic make former executives or public officials.
The outgoing Council of the Republic had unprecedentedly many corruption rows involving its members. For instance, in the past two years, three members of the Senate were prosecuted for economic crimes. Senators Andrej Pavlovski, Anna Shareiko and Vitali Kostogorov were reputable and successful businessmen in Grodno, Vitebsk and Mogilev regions, respectively. Close ties with the local nomenclature allowed their nomination as senators from their respective regions. The prosecution of the Council of the Republic members was likely due to the struggle for the redistribution of dwindling state resources among the nomenclature.
As usual, members of the Council of the Republic are likely to represent all spheres of Belarusian society, albeit representation of large private businesses may somewhat reduce.
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.