Capacity of Belarusian opposition in presidential campaign halved
Compared with 2010 elections, capacity of the opposition in the 2015 presidential campaign has almost three-folded. Amid overall political apathy and predictable elections results, political activists’ outflow is due to the refusal of most political leaders to participate in the presidential race, emigration of some bright opposition leaders and activists, and disagreements over a single strategy for the opposition in the campaign. Meanwhile, the authorities encourage more engaged, although formal, participation in the presidential campaign among loyal public organizations and political parties.
At a meeting with members of the PACE preliminary observation mission opposition leaders have drawn a dark picture of the ongoing election campaign.
Conventional Belarusian opposition parties and movements are losing their appeal and popularity among the opposition-minded electorate. In 2015, the number of opposition activists willing to engage in the ongoing presidential campaign reduced dramatically: to circa 4400 activists in the initiative groups of three opposition candidates in 2015, which is a threefold reduction compared with the 2010 campaign with eight candidates and 12,600 activists. That said, both, in 20110 and in 2015, some activists engaged in initiative groups of several opposition leaders.
Opposition electorate in 2015 elections is not mobilising, since some opposition leaders appeal to ignore the ongoing presidential campaign, while others (mainly emigrants) call for a boycott of the elections. Conflicting opposition strategies are likely to mislead the electorate and further reduce political activity. For instance, most opposition groups said the main task of the presidential campaign was to disrupt the recognition of the elections by international observers. To accomplish this task, the opposition intended to organise a large-scale observation in order to record violations by the authorities. However, in 2015 the number of opposition candidates nominated in the precinct election commissions reduced by 2-3 times in comparison with 2010. For example, the United Civil Party has delegated only 172 activist (507 in 2010) in the district election commissions, the Belarusian Popular Front - 96 (208 in 2010), and the ‘Fair World’ - 147 (281 in 2010). In other words, only 415 political activists were nominated for observation in 2015 – against 996 in 2010.
The Belarusian authorities also de-motivate opposition activists. Independent observers reported that during the past five years the authorities were reducing representation of the opposition in the electoral commissions at all levels.
Meanwhile, according to the Belarusian legislation, representatives of political parties and public associations should comprise at least one third of electoral commission. The authorities ensure they do not violate the law by nominating representatives of quangos, such as „Belaya Rus”, Belarusian Public Association of Veterans, Belarusian Women’s Union, Youth Union, and others, as electoral commission members.
In addition, in 2015, loyal political parties have significantly increased their nominees to precinct election commissions, thus improving the statistics of party representation in commissions. It is worth noting that most pro-governmental parties do not participate in political campaigns and do not nominate their candidates to local and parliamentary elections. Their main role is to represent political parties in election commissions at all levels en lieu of the opposition. For instance, 2278 of 2906 activists, which were nominated from pro-governmental parties, have become members of precinct electoral commissions.
Mobilisation potential of the opposition political parties is likely to reduce further due to the lack of a single strategy, or if they decide to ignore/boycott the next elections.
The rapid increase in wages has led to a decline in the ratio between labour productivity and real wages to one. Previously, the rule was that enterprises, in which the state owned more than 50% of shares in the founding capital, were not allowed increasing salaries if this ratio was equal to or less than one. The authorities are unlikely to be able to meet the wage growth requirement without long-term consequences for the economy. Hence, the government is likely to contain wage growth for the sake of economic growth.
According to Belstat, In January – August 2017, GDP growth was 1.6%. The economic revival has led to an increase in wages. In August, the average monthly wage was BYN 844.4 or USD 435, i.e. grew by 6.6% since early 2017, adjusted for inflation. This has reduced the ratio between labour productivity and real wages from 1.03 in January 2017 to 1 in the first seven months of 2017. This parameter should not be less than 1, otherwise, the economy starts accumulating imbalances.
The need for faster growth in labour productivity over wage growth was stated in Decree No 744 of July 31st, 2014. The decree enabled wages growth at state organizations and organizations with more than 50% of state-owned shares only if the ratio between growth in labour productivity and wages was higher than 1. Taking into account the state's share in the economy, this rule has had impact on most of the country's key enterprises. In 2013 -2014 wages grew rapidly, which resulted in devaluation in 2014-2015.
Faster wage growth as compared with growth in labour productivity carries a number of risks. Enterprises increase cost of wages, which subsequently leads to a decrease in the competitiveness of products on the domestic and foreign markets. In construction, wholesale, retail trade, and some other industries the growth rate of prime cost in 2017 outpaces the dynamics of revenue growth. This is likely to lead to a decrease in profits and a decrease in investments for further development. Amid wage growth, the population is likely to increase import consumption and reduce currency sales, which would reduce the National Bank's ability to repay foreign and domestic liabilities.
The Belarusian government is facing a dilemma – either to comply with the president’s requirement of a BYN 1000 monthly wage, which could lead to new economic imbalances and could further affect the national currency value, or to suspend the wage growth in order to retain the achieved economic results. That said, the first option bears a greater number of negative consequences for the nomenclature.
Overall, the rapid growth in wages no longer corresponds the pace of economic development. The government is likely to retain the economic growth and retrain further growth in wages. Staff reshuffles are unlikely to follow the failure to meet the wage growth requirement.