Belarusian opposition is attempting to move beyond traditional protest electorate
Candidates from the opposition are attempting to stir interest of the electorate in the upcoming parliamentary elections by addressing the most topical socio-economic issues. Since the Belarusian authorities have fears of growth in protest voting and enhanced support for oppositional candidates, they decided against holding a large-scale mobilization campaign before early voting starts in order to increase the turnout. The opposition has limited resources to make full use of their communication channels and to mobilize their potential supporters for active participation in the voting.
Last week, Minsk-News newspaper published more than fifty election programmes of candidates from Minsk.
Alternative candidates seek to raise the voters’ interest in the elections by organising campaigning concerts, joint campaign actions and brilliant performances, as well as other non-conventional activities aiming to enhance contacts with voters and step-up their participation in the election campaign. Party candidates have not made public statements about withdrawing from the election race; they are likely to participate in the campaign until the end.
In order to gain new supporters, many oppositional candidates have somewhat altered their rhetoric and not only talk about the regime change, the Belarusian language, the geopolitical choice and independence, but also raise socio-economic issues. Opposition candidates seem to have abandoned mutual accusations and focused on electoral cooperation, which has had a positive media effect on their campaigns as a whole, especially in the regions.
Meanwhile, the opposition lacks human and financial resources to make full use of existing communication channels to convey their ideas. Many candidates have not found funds to print flyers, place paid advertising in newspapers and ensure visual presence in their constituencies.
The Belarusian authorities not only have reduced the budget financing for the candidates’ campaigning activities, but also have taken measures to ensure voter’s low interest in the elections and de-politicization of the society as a whole. Some nomenclature candidates have refused to participate in the debates with the opposition candidates on public television, which, inter alia, could be due to the lack of experience and skills required to participate in public policy debate.
Overall, some opposition candidates are attempting to gain new supporters among new social groups, among those who are dissatisfied with the current social and economic policies.
The Labour and the Tax Ministries are considering the possibility to include persons engaged in some economic activity without forming a legal entity in the social security system. When the decree No 337 comes into effect, the number of private entrepreneurs is likely to reduce due to the possibility of reducing the tax burden when switching to a tax payment as an individual. 95% of self-employed, including PE, pay insurance premiums on the basis of the minimum wage. The number of self-employed citizens is expected to increase, the number of insurance contributions to the pension system from PE will decrease, the number of citizens who will pay a fee to finance government spending will decrease by several tens. Self-employed citizens have the alternative not to pay social security fees and save resources for future pensions, which, given the gradual restriction by the state of pension requirements could be a more long-sighted option.