Belarusian opposition parties step up fight for supporters
After the parliamentary elections, the Belarusian opposition is regrouping; the centre-right coalition has softened its positions and supporters of protest activity have become more active. Organizers of the Belarusian National Congress, led by ex-candidate and former political prisoner Mikola Statkevich are attempting to win over supporters of the UCP, who are disillusioned with its leadership. In the near future, the opposition leaders are likely to step up mutual criticism.
The centre-right coalition has held the constituent assembly of the Assembly of People's Representatives, the so-called alternative parliament.
Nikolai Statkevich, the Belarusian National Congress (BNC) co-organiser, lashed out at his colleagues from the centre-right coalition and announced the next unsanctioned protest action. The BNC organisers aspire to recruit new supporters from the centre-right coalition, among those who are disillusioned with the UCP leadership for accepting Anna Konopatskaya’s deputy mandate. The BNC headed by Statkevich is attempting to disassociate from the centre-right and become a hard critic of the Belarusian leadership.
It is worth noting that many opposition activists have condemned the United Civil Party, including other members of the centre-right coalition, for the decision to accept the parliamentary mandate and support Anna Konopatksaya, an opposition representative in Parliament.
The centre-right coalition has abandoned the strategy of tough confrontation with the authorities in favour of cooperation with the Belarusian leadership to promote their programmes. As the coalition is not yet set to choose a single presidential candidate, there is only minor tension among the coalition members.
Although some parties continue to cooperate, the opposition is disengaging. For instance, the pre-election initiative to hold consultations between the main opposition parties has been abandoned and major opposition structures, such as Tell the Truth and the Belarusian Popular Front, stay outside coalition agreements.
In the post-election opposition re-shaping, the Belarusian National Congress led by Statkevich has strengthened its positions by engaging those discontent with the opposition parties for cooperating with the authorities.
President Lukashenka has met with the head of Chechnya Ramzan Kadyrov, who visited Minsk and the Minsk Automobile Plant. Minsk has always sought to have independent links with Russian regional elites, partially, to compensate for the Kremlin's diminishing interest in Belarus. In recent years, Belarus’ contacts with the Russian regions have been extremely intense. However, with some leaders of Russian regions, primarily heads of large republics, communication was more difficult to build. As many analysts in Minsk suggested, Minsk could regard contacts between President Lukashenka and the head of Chechnya as an additional communication channel for relieving tension in relations with the Kremlin. However, most likely, a trusting relationship with Kadyrov is a value for Minsk as such, provided Kadyrov’s broad business and political interests, and a high degree of autonomy for the Chechen leader from the Kremlin.