Belarusian opposition hopes for non-recognition of presidential elections by international observers
Neither the Belarusian leadership, nor the opposition have yet determined the final scenario for the presidential campaign. The opposition is mostly focusing on organising the election observation in order to collect evidence of violations, which could be used to advocate for non-recognition of the elections by the international observers. Amid the overall low political activity in the country, inter alia, among supporters and opposition to the current authorities, the authorities’ major headache is how to ensure the required turnout on the election day.
The Central Election Commission will register candidates for the presidency at the meeting on September 10th.
Four action groups have already collected 100,000 signature required to register their candidates for presidency in the upcoming elections, including Alexander Lukashenka (over 900,000 signatures), independent economist Vladimir Tereshchenko (128,000 signatures), Liberal Democratic Party of Belarus Head Sergei Haidukevich (over 120,000 signatures), and Tatsiana Karatkevich from the "People’s Referendum" initiative (100,000 signatures). Two more opposition candidates still have the opportunity to overcome the 100,000 threshold: United Civic Party leader Anatol Lyabedzka and ‘Fair World’ party Chairman Sergei Kalyakin. Meanwhile, human rights activists and independent analysts have questioned the credibility of the information about the number of signatures collected by action groups of Sergei Haidukevich and Vladimir Tereshchenko.
Some independent analysts and part of the opposition reckon that having opposition candidates on the ballots would be an essential factor for the international observers while assessing the electoral process. In their viewpoint, western capitals might recognise (with reservations) the presidential elections if oppositional candidates were on the ballots.
In fact, it would make sense for the authorities to register all potential candidates. The CEC head Yarmoshyna encouraged voters to support potential candidates “so that the election campaign was interesting, diverse and with alternatives”. The authorities fear a low turnout in the elections, and having only one opposition candidate on the ballot would hardly mobilise supporters of the opposition or the incumbent president.
It is worth noting that in the ongoing presidential campaign opposition candidates have focused on working with electorate in the regions. Perhaps, this was because the so-called ‘Maidan’ scenario was no longer on the agenda and that voters in the regions were greatly disappointed with the existing socio-economic policies of the authorities.
In the existing circumstances, when the opposition is no longer seeking to change the power through the presidential campaign, some opposition organisations have united under the Right of Choice 2015 initiative, which aims to achieve non-recognition of the election results by Western capitals. However, the authorities are aware of that too and may act accordingly. For instance, in 2006 the organisers of an independent election observation through ‘Partnersvo’ initiative were prosecuted on criminal charges. Yet the authorities are unlikely to go that far in 2015 – for the incumbent president ultimately dominates in the ongoing campaign and the opposition has abandoned the ‘mass protests on the election day’ scenario.
Overall, the authorities are likely to register all potential candidates who would submit the required number of signatures without any serious violations.
President Lukashenka continues to rotate staff and rejuvenate heads of departments and universities following new appointments in regional administrations. Apparently, new Information Minister Karliukevich could somewhat relax the state policy towards the independent media and introduce technological solutions for retaining control over Belarus’ information space. New rectors could strengthen the trend for soft Belarusization in the regions and tighten the disciplinary and ideological control over the student movement in the capital.
President Lukashenka has appointed new ministers of culture and information, the new rector of the Belarusian State University and heads of three universities, assistants in the Minsk and Vitebsk regions.
The new Information Minister Karliukevich is likely to avoid controversial initiatives similar to those former Minister Ananich was famous for, however, certainly within his capacities. Nevertheless, the appointment of Belarusian-speaking writer Karliukevich could be regarded as the state’s cautious attempt to relax environment in the media field and ensure the sovereignty of national media.
The Belarusian leadership has consolidated the trend for mild Belarusization by appointing a young historian and a ‘reasonable nationalist’, Duk as the rector at the Kuleshov State University in Mogilev. Meanwhile, while choosing the head of the Belarusian State University, the president apparently had in mind the strengthening of the ideological loyalty among the teaching staff and students at the main university in order to keep the youth movement at bay. Previously, Korol was the rector of the Kupala State University in Grodno, where he held purges among the disloyal teaching staff.
The trend for the renewal of mid-ranking executives and their rejuvenation has confirmed. The age of the Culture Minister and three new rectors varies from 39 to 44 years old.