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.
According to Belstat, in August 7,600 people were dismissed, including 4,800 civil servants. Dismissals of civil servants were due to the optimisation in the public administration by up to 30%. Some civil servants would retain their job however would lose the status of a civil servant. Vacancies on the labour market are likely to reduce in number, thanks to the optimisation, the state administration would increase wages for public servants. The payroll fund for retained employees is likely to increase and some former state employees are likely to get jobs in affiliated organizations. The optimisation of the state apparatus should complete by January 1st, 2018, and some former civil servants are likely to join the ranks of the unemployed.