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.
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.