Belarusian opposition will reduce participation in local elections
Opposition parties plan to take part in the local election campaign in Belarus. However, parties are unlikely to nominate more than 50-100 activists from each organisational structure. Apparently, the opposition failed to mobilize a sufficient number of activists after the "hot spring".
Most likely, the opposition participation in the local elections would be limited to the most representative candidates. According to the The Right of Choice campaign, which unites eight opposition structures (the United Civic Party, the Belarusian Social Democratic Party (Hramada), the organizing committee for the creation of the Belarusian Christian Democracy Party, the For Freedom movement, the Belarusian Popular Front Party, the Belarusian Green Party and the organizing committee of the Party of Freedom and Progress), the number of candidates and observers from these structures will substantially reduce as compared with the local campaign of 2014.
It should be noted that there were thousands of participants in the recent protest actions in the regions. As the opposition attempted to promote political demands, the authorities have clamped down popular discontent. Currently, only few people are ready for active political engagement. That said, the authorities’ major task is not to allow social and economic demands of the population to marry the oppositional political agenda.
Meanwhile, the authorities’ agenda is also shifting focus towards social issues, but the Belarusian leadership is beginning to lose touch with the population, which is well used by the opposition leaders.
Social discontent and the authorities’ inability fully diffuse it, has increased the opposition chances for gaining in popularity during the local elections. In addition, the low number of local government nominees for the local elections and the authorities' likely interest in demonstrating "democratization" give some hope for the opposition to win seats in the local councils. However, so far, the opposition neither has the opportunity, nor the desire to expand its participation in the upcoming election campaign.
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.