Belarusian opposition confronts with choice again: to boycott or participate in elections
Belarus enters a new political cycle with the old set of arguments and controversies. The main tension, again, is about participation or boycotting of the upcoming election campaign.
A number of political movements voiced their position concerning the participation or non-participation in Parliamentary elections in Belarus in 2012.
On 26 October a member of the Belarusian Social Democratic Party Hramada Mr. Znavets presented arguments “for a boycott of the elections”. The main argument is based on the historical experience of the latest Parliamentary elections in 2008, when there was a plan of joint action of Belarus and the West in exchange for recognition of the elections. It did not work out as not a single representative of the opposition was elected to the House of Representatives. Moreover, according to Mr. Znavets, the inclusion of the “oppositional” Deputies into the Parliament would threaten the precarious position of the Belarusian regime. Therefore, undoubtedly,Lukashenko will not agree to comply with the EU and the OSCE requirements to liberalize the elections. Mr. Znavets believes the opposition should focus on the alternative election campaign, disregarding the existing public institutions of power, and its results should be recognized by the international community, not by the Belarusian authorities.
According to Mr. Znavets, the inclusion of the “oppositional” Deputies into the Parliament would threaten the precarious position of the Belarusian regime.
On 28 October the alternative point of view has been voiced by the leader of the “Tell the Truth!” campaign, Mr. Niakliajeu. His argument is based on the fact that, in order to preserve the sovereignty and his own power, President Lukashenko needs to balance out the country’s dependence on Russia, which will increase with the launch of the single economic space in 2012. In his view it could be achieved if three conditions of the EU are met: the release and rehabilitation of political prisoners, commencement of negotiations with the opposition and holding of the Parliamentary elections in compliance with the OSCE standards. As a bonus for fulfillment of these conditions Mr. Niakliajeu recalled the EUR 9 billion promised by Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk for Belarus.
Niakliajeu believes, in order to preserve the sovereignty and his own power, President Lukashenko needs to balance out the country’s dependence on Russia, which will increase with the launch of the single economic space in 2012.
Both arguments are quite traditional for the Belarusian opposition. However the previous elections experience in Belarus shows that the leadership of the opposition parties and movements cannot implement neither strategy due to lack of joint efforts, inconsistency and mismatch of their actions. As a result, President Lukashenko skillfully uses the contradictions between the leaders and movements and international agencies behind them to remain at power.
Moreover, the existence of political prisoners and among them two former presidential candidates and prominent politicians (Mr. Sannikov and Mr. Statkevich), puts off the ability of the opposition forces to coordinate their positions before the Parliamentary elections and to unite “for” or “against” the election campaign.
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.