Elections have taken place: boycott/disregard strategy has failed in Belarusian environment
The Central Electoral Commission reported that voter turnout was 51.2% by noon on October 11th. Such a high turnout was due to the authorities’ broad campaign encouraging early voting. During the early voting stage, polling stations have marked a record high turnout in the history of independent Belarus – 36,05% of voters throughout the country, and circa 40% in Vitebsk, Gomel and Brest regions. Election observers said that early turnout was due to the administrative coercion and fraud. This means that in Belarus, boycott strategies aiming to demonstrate the lack of support for the regime by non-participation in the voting would fail now, as well as in the future.
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.