Belarusian opposition parties to fight for regional activists
The Belarusian opposition is attempting to strengthen party structures, consolidate regional activists and reach out to new audiences before the local elections. Parties continue to cooperate within the existing alliances, but coalitions avoid even minor coordination among them, regardless of the similar political agenda. Apparently, as the local elections draw closer, the fight for regional activists among different oppositional structures is likely to step up.
In 2017, ‘Tell the Truth’ campaign is set to focus on the Belarusian regions and hold a forum ‘For the peaceful change’ in each one of them.
The opposition parties are attempting to boost their influence in the regions and consolidate regional activists in order to strengthen their electoral potential before the local elections, which will take place in late 2017. High tension between the centre-right coalition and the initiators of the Belarusian National Congress (BNC), who support street protests, is very likely.
The BNC, headed by former political prisoner Nikolai Statkevich continues its expansion into Belarusian regions: two new structures appeared in Soligorsk and Vitebsk in early 2017. The centre-right coalition is also attempting to consolidate regional initiatives and put pressure on the authorities by using the potential of their MP Anna Kanopatskaya. ‘Tell the Truth’ campaign launched a party building process and said to focus on the regions; it also promised to bring new faces in politics.
In addition, the opposition is stepping up efforts to reach out to new audiences and recruit new volunteers from those dissatisfied with the current public policies. Virtually all opposition groups are attempting to mobilize so-called ‘social parasites’ by using various activities: collecting signatures, street agitation, holding a ‘March of the parasites’ (the centre-right coalition), and public hearings during the "parasites meeting" (‘Tell the truth’). In turn, supporters of street activity are likely to organise spontaneous protests for those affected by the “tax on social parasitism". Yet the BNC leaders have not announced any plans for a collective action, but launched an aggressive media campaign against the decree on ‘social parasitism’.
Most political parties are likely to participate in the local election campaign, and in the coming months will attempt to mobilise new leaders from those dissatisfied with the current government policies. Their success largely depends on the actions of the authorities and the intensity of the state’s financial pressure on the population.
Following crackdown and arrests of participants in the spring protests, the authorities resumed arrests as punishment for participating in street protests in addition to fines, which for some time were the only punishment for political activity. On September 22nd, 2017, the riot police detained the Belarusian National Congress leader Nikolai Statkevich, the opposition politician was placed in detention centre on Akrestin street. On the same day, after serving seven days of arrest, another BNC leader, Vladimir Neklyaev, was released. He was sentenced for organising a street protest on September 8th against the West-2017 exercises. Other participants in the protest have been fined too. The authorities are likely to continue to use fines and arrests against political activists to punish for their protest activity.