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 country's leadership has instructed the local authorities to raise minimum wages at enterprises by the end of 2019 to BYN 1,000, which would lead to an increase in the average wage in the economy as a whole to BYN 1 500. The pace of wage growth in 2017 is insufficient to ensure payroll at BYN 1000 by late 2017 without manipulating statistical indicators. In order to fulfil the president’s order, the government would have to increase budgetary expenditures on wages in healthcare and education, enterprises – to carry out further layoffs and expand the practice of taking loans to pay wages and restrict investment in modernisation of fixed assets. In 2010, the artificial increase in wages led to a threefold devaluation in 2011, an increase in the average salary to BYN 1500 will not match the capabilities of the economy and would lead to yet another devaluation.