Belarusian opposition aims to expand support base amid growing tension in society
Most opposition parties are attempting to reach out to new social groups beyond the traditional opposition electorate from those affected by the decree on ‘social parasitism’. Different opposition groups offer a variety of approaches to opposing the decree on ‘social parasitism’ and albeit conventional supporters of the opposition are somewhat disoriented, it creates the preconditions for expanding the support base of democratic institutions and achieving success in revoking or amending this government initiative.
"Tell the Truth" campaign has invited ‘social parasites’ from across the country to discuss an action plan.
The opposition is using a wide range of means to engage those affected by the decree on ‘social parasites’ in party activities both, in the capital and in the regions. This includes signing a petition to abolish the decree and recall MPs; sabotage; litigating with the authorities; holding pickets, marches, round tables, and meetings with government officials; inter alia, through the Internet and social networks. By using different approaches, the opposition is able to reach out to broad population groups, which somewhat bridges diversities among the parties.
Organizers of the Belarusian National Congress (BNC) aim to mobilise supporters of street actions by organizing a ‘March of perturbed Belarusians’, an unsanctioned rally. “Tell the Truth" campaign aims to recruit new activists with no experience in politics by applying ‘safe’ pressure on the authorities. The centre-right coalition aims, on the one hand, to stop their supporters from joining the BNC led by Statkevich with harsh rhetoric and street actions (sanctioned by the authorities); and on the other hand, to attract new activists through MP Kanopatskaya and other forms of legal activity.
Amid growing tension and discontent in society, the authorities are showing concern about growing potential for street activity and engagement of new social groups. In the regions, local authorities refuse to sanction mass activity organised by the opposition in support for the abolition of the decree and impose heavy fines on participants in unauthorised actions. However, so far, the law enforcement has not taken any preventive action against the organizers of the unauthorized March. Perhaps, they count on differences among various opposition centres to build up over pressure strategies on the government.
Overall, some democratic organisations are attempting to step beyond the traditional opposition core inclined to boycott election campaigns. Should new social groups start supporting the opposition, its electoral potential would enhance by the local elections, scheduled for early 2018.
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.