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.
Last week, Belarusian Foreign Minister Makei participated in the foreign ministers’ meeting of the Eastern Partnership and Visegrad Group initiative hosted by Warsaw. The Belarusian FM emphasized Belarus' interest in cooperation in the transport sector, which could be due to Belarus’ desire to export electricity surplus after Belarus finished construction of the nuclear power plant in Ostrovets. Minsk expressed concerns about Warsaw’s stance on the Belarusian NPP, as it refused to buy electricity from Belarus and supported Vilnius’ protest on this issue. Following accusations by the Belarusian leadership and the state media against western states, including Poland, of training "nationalist militants", Minsk did not agree on the visit of the European Parliament deputies from Lithuania and Germany to Belarus and to the NPP construction site near Ostrovets in particular. In addition, the Belarusian authorities have stepped up efforts to enforce education in Russian in Polish-language schools in Grodno and Vaukavysk. Should a rift in Belarusian-Polish relations persist, the Belarusian authorities are likely to step up the pressure on the Polish-speaking minority in Belarus.