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 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.