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.
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.