Electoral Legislation Simplification
Belarusian Electoral Code will be amended. Most of the proposed amendments are cosmetic and do not affect the electoral system. Introduced changes will facilitate the dominating electoral practices.
On January 31st Belarus’ President held a meeting on the proposed Electoral Code changes. The proposed amendments will be considered by the Parliament in September 2013. The amendments will be adopted in the autumn, and the authorities, as well as other participants of the electoral process will be able to try the novelties already during the local elections in 2014.
Amendments, discussed at the meeting, inter alia, concerned the proposal to determine the winner in the parliamentary elections during the first voting round based on relative majority principle. Officially, such innovation aims at “reducing the campaign costs”. In reality, such an amendment, if adopted, implies abolition of the second round. In 2009, similar amendments have been introduced with regard to local elections.
Another important outcome of the meeting was the criticism by the President of the proposal to enable candidates’ nomination by Republican public associations having more than 1,000 members. It is very likely that this proposal will be rejected completely. If so, the largest quango in the country, Belaya Rus, will not be affected. Belaya Rus has enough lobbying opportunities to nominate and register their candidates within already existing procedures.
The meeting participants also positively reacted to the proposal to ban the boycott campaign by already registered candidates, to an increase in candidates’ personal campaign funds, as well as to the proposal to enable candidates for local Councils to form personal funds. In addition, it was proposed to enable candidates to pay for printed campaign materials from own funds, rather than from the state budget.
Thus, as anticipated, the proposed changes are overly cosmetic. The current candidates’ nomination and registration procedures remain unchanged, and the authorities attempt to make them more effective to serve their purposes - primarily via changing the procedure for determining the winners in the parliamentary elections. The latter suggests that the authorities recognize the problems with populations’ electoral support and seriously prepare for the low turnout during the next election campaign.
Over the past year, military-political relations between Minsk and Kyiv have become complicated. Due to their high inertia and peculiarities, this downward trend would be extremely difficult to overcome.
The root cause of the crisis is the absence of a common political agenda in the Belarusian-Ukrainian relations. Minsk is looking for a market for Belarusian exports in Ukraine and offers its services as a negotiation platform for the settlement of the Russo-Ukrainian war, thereby hoping to avoid political issues in the dialogue with Kiev. Meanwhile, Ukraine is hoping for political support from Minsk in the confrontation with Moscow. In addition, Ukraine’s integration with NATO presupposes her common position with the Alliance in relation to Belarus. The NATO leadership regards the Belarusian Armed Forces as an integral part of the Russian military machine in the western strategic front (the Baltic states and Poland). In addition, the ongoing military reform in Ukraine envisages a reduction in the number of generals and the domestic political struggle makes some Ukrainian top military leaders targets in politically motivated attacks.
Hence, the criticism of Belarus coming from Ukrainian military leadership is dictated primarily by internal and external political considerations, as well as by the need to protect the interests of generals, and only then by facts.
For instance, initially, the Ukrainian military leadership made statements about 100,000 Russian servicemen allegedly taking part in the Russo-Belarusian military drill West-2017. Then the exercises were labelled quazi-open and military observers from Ukraine refused to provide their assessment, which caused a negative reaction in Minsk. Further, without citing specific facts, it was stated that Russia was building up its military presence in Belarus.
Apparently, the Belarusian and Ukrainian Defence Ministries have entangled in a confrontational spiral (on the level of rhetoric). Moreover, only a small part of the overly hidden process has been disclosed. That said, third states are very likely to take advantage of the situation (or have already done so). This is not only about Russia.
The Belarusian Defence Ministry officials are restrained in assessing their Ukrainian counterparts. However, such a restraint is not enough. Current military-political relations between Belarus and Ukraine are unlikely to stabilise without the intervention of both presidents.