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.
The Belarusian authorities regard the Catholic conference as yet another international event to promote Minsk as a global negotiating platform. Minsk’s proposal to organise a meeting between the Roman-Catholic Church and the Russian Orthodox Church is rather an image-making undertaking than a serious intention. However, the authorities could somewhat extend the opportunities for the Roman-Catholic Church in Belarus due to developing contacts with the Catholic world.
Minsk is attempting to lay out a mosaic from various international religious, political and sportive events to shape a positive image of Belarus for promoting the Helsinki 2.0 idea.
Belarus’ invitation to the head of the Holy See for a meeting with the Patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church should be regarded as a continuation of her foreign policy efforts in shaping Minsk’s peacekeeping image and enhancing Belarus’ international weight. The Belarusian authorities are aware that their initiative is unlikely to find supporters among the leadership of the Russian Orthodox Church in Moscow. In Russia, isolationist sentiments prevail.
In addition, for domestic audiences, the authorities make up for the lack of tangible economic growth with demonstrations of growth in Minsk’s authority at international level through providing a platform for religious, sportive and other dialogues.