"Coalition for non-recognition" to insure Belarusian election results
The issue of international recognition / non-recognition of the presidential elections results in Belarus has determined the Democratic Forces’ electoral strategy. Last week, they signed an agreement on the conditions for the recognition of the election results, impossible for Lukashenka. Meanwhile, Lukashenka is not seeking full recognition of the 2015 elections by international democratic institutions, the recognition of ‘limited progress’ would do. By creating a ‘coalition for non-recognition’ ahead of the election campaign, the opposition hopes to insure against unexpected moves by OSCE/ODIHR and Russia.
On April 28th, the political council of the United Civil Party confirmed the nomination of the party Chairman Anatoly Lebedko as a candidate for the 2015 presidential elections in Belarus. Mr Lebedko explained that the main motive behind his nomination was to prevent international recognition of the election results. On April 9th, six opposition structures – the United Civil Party, the Belarusian Leftist Party ‘Fair World’, the Belarusian Social Democratic Party (Hramada), the organizing committees of the women’s party ‘Nadzeya’, Labour Party and the Belarusian Christian Democracy – agreed the conditions under which the results of the presidential elections in Belarus would be recognised by the opposition forces and international community as democratic. These conditions include as follows: releasing political prisoners, restoring their civil rights and freedoms, and ending their political persecution; registering all public associations and parties, which were previously denied registration; creating equal conditions for state and non-state media organisations and simplifying their registration.
Clearly, the authorities not only would not but also cannot fulfil all these requirements before the elections. For example, even if the political prisoners were released before the elections, they would not be rehabilitated and their civil rights would not be restored. In theory, the government could register at least those parties, which signed the abovementioned agreement, however, not all those which had once been denied registration. That said, creating equal conditions for the state and non-state media could take years given the current state of affairs.
In addition, the agreement also includes such conditions as guaranteed representation of opposition in election commissions at all levels; open and transparent counting of votes; the right of observers to receive any information about the elections and the counting process and to record it by any means; the right to appeal any decision of electoral commissions at all levels.
At least two candidates from the ‘coalition for non-recognition’ will participate in the 2015 elections – Anatoly Lebedko (the UCP) and Syarhei Kalyakin (‘Fair World’). In addition, Tatiana Karatkevich is also likely to be nominated from the “People’s Referendum”, to which the Belarusian Social Democratic Party (Hramada) is a member who also signed the agreement.
The Central Election Commission is not intending to make steps to ensure recognition of the elections. Central Election Commission Chairwoman Yarmoshyna said at a meeting with representatives of the Belarusian Republican Youth Union on April 30th, that the Electoral Code would not be amended ahead of the elections. Previously, Yarmoshyna reiterated numerous times that she did not expect the Belarusian elections to be recognised by the OSCE/ODIHR standards, however, for example in 2010, she hoped that the CEC work would be valued higher than usual by the OSCE/ODIHR.
Apparently, neither Lukashenka, nor the government is interested in the recognition of the Belarusian elections as free and democratic. Quite the opposite, they do not want this to happen even by chance – so as not to irritate Russia, Belarus’ major ally, and not to create additional risks. Recently, Russia has been demonstrating extreme suspicion and willingness to react to potential threats with real and brutal actions.
Where it concerns recognition / non-recognition of the elections, Belarusian politicians have similar interests, but different expectations. The authorities expect to relieve tension in relations with the EU and the US with the recognition of the limited progress during the election campaign, while members of the ‘coalition for non-recognition’ aspire to preserve the current state of affairs.
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.