Election programme of Lukashenka has less populism than programmes of his rivals
The incumbent president’s Election programme includes a set of market-oriented and liberal theses suggesting changes in approaches to the economy, as well as slogans about some democratisation of political life. Election programmes of other candidates, including the only opposition candidate Tatsiana Karatkevich, contain more populism compared with Lukashenka’s. Despite the apparent liberalism, if re-elected, President Lukashenka is likely to carry out only half-measures in transforming the existing socio-economic model and abandon changes in the political system.
TUT.BY Internet portal has compared programmes of presidential candidates for key messages and promises.
In his election campaign, Lukashenka refers to his past achievements and to his role as the first president in ensuring Belarus’ independence, safety and stability. The key message of his election programme “For the future of independent Belarus” could be summarised as “one cannot lose what has already been achieved”.
President Lukashenka is attempting to promote himself as the founding father of the Belarusian statehood, with an emphasis on his role in the creation of the “first independent Belarusian state in the history”. Remarkably, the president’s programme makes no mention of the Eurasian Economic Union or other integration endeavours in the post-Soviet space, which have determined Belarus’ foreign and domestic policy for the next decade.
As anticipated, amid deteriorating socio-economic situation and the bloody events in Ukraine, President Lukashenka has focused his campaign on the premise of ensuring stability, peace and tranquillity in the country: “As the war is at our doorstep, we have realized – there is nothing more precious than peace”.
Overall, Lukashenka’s electoral programme does not contain any specific quantitative indicators and benchmarks for the future five years. In addition, the Belarusian government has not proposed any drastic measures to reform the existing socio-economic and political model. However, his programme refers to some quite liberal and market-based approaches in the economy, such as ‘providing unconditional guarantees of private property rights’, ‘money issue in strict accordance with the economic needs, which will not lead to price hikes’, support for small and medium-sized businesses, further de-bureaucratization and so on.
Meanwhile, these statements contradict current and past economic policies, as well as plans of the Belarusian government. For example, Lukashenka’s campaign promises to cut public foreign debt is at odds with the intentions and plans of the authorities to obtain loans from China, Russia and the IMF (for the construction of the nuclear power plant).
In addition, the president promises some democratic changes in the political system - "to expand the powers and responsibilities of the Parliament, local governments and self-government".
“Peaceful transformations is the only way”, the election programme of Tatsiana Karatkevich, offers a contrast to programmes of other presidential candidates, and emphasises the inability of the current leadership to ensure country’s development. Her programme contains some provisions on profound socio-economic and political reforms. Simultaneously, unlike the incumbent president, Tatsiana Karatkevich has diluted her election slogans with an acceptable level of populist rhetoric for better appeal to voters.
The key messages in programmes of other candidates, who are considered by the opposition as sparring partners of Lukashenka, are in tune with the incumbent president’s programme. For example, Haidukevich’s motto is “Order in the country, prosperity at home” (the Liberal Democratic Party of Belarus), and Ulakhovich’s is “For peace, tranquillity and order” (the Belarusian Patriotic Party), while both programmes are built around security and stability in society. In addition, their programmes contain many populist proposals in social and economic spheres, as well as provisions to reform the political system. Unlike Lukashenka, candidate Ulakhovich has put a particular emphasis on the need to deepen mutually beneficial and equal allied relations with Russia. Most likely, in this manner the authorities want to measure the level of pro-Russian sentiment and support for the ‘Russian world’ ideas among the population.
Overall, the Belarusian government has no clear plans how to bailout the existing socio-economic model from the systemic crisis after the elections.
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.