Financial activity of candidates remains low
The likely reason behind the slow formation of candidates’ campaign funds is their complicated usability. Costs associated with the replenishment and management of such funds outweigh the benefits they provide and force the candidates to choose support from the State budget.
As of September 7th, only 69 from 369 registered candidates opened personal campaign funds to raise money from the population.
Candidates’ low financial activity in setting up personal election funds is due to high costs of their establishment and management. By law, a candidate’s fund may not exceed the equivalent of USD 12 000, while the bureaucratic procedures for fund’s replenishment and expenditure reporting are quite laborious.
For example, bank transfers from citizens are made only upon passport registration, a candidate must submit regular reports to the CEC about the fund’s expenditures, unused funds have to be returned to the donors, contributions from Belarusian NGOs, which received assistance from abroad earlier in the year, cannot be accepted, etc.
All these regulations impact on candidates’ activity in collecting donations. In addition, an informal rule “initiative is punishable” has a valid impact: for example, a year ago, CEC Head Yarmoshyna openly voiced her negative attitude about political campaigns being funded by parties.
In these circumstances it is more feasible and less risky for the candidates to give up on their own campaign funds and to take advantage of the state budget quota allocated by the CEC in the state budget for publishing and printing of propaganda materials. Budget funding envisages BYR 5 million or approximately USD 595 for each candidate.
For example, on August 25th, the Liberal Democratic Party said it will print 2.5 leaflets using the state budget and said that would be their early victory in the elections. At the same time, the party kept silence about their success in collecting donations.
The Belarusian authorities could to step up the opposition representation in local councils, should party members demonstrate potency. The Belarusian leadership is unlikely to have the resources to ensure 100 percent pro-government candidates in the local elections. The authorities have exhausted the grassroot support and have no funds to pay for the loyalty.
The Belarusian Central Election Commission has proposed to hold the elections to the local Councils of Deputies on February 18th, 2018.
The president has repeatedly emphasised the importance of the local councils in the power system and the state machine always tried to ensure the necessary local election results. Candidates have been decreasing in number with each elections and the authorities dealt with that by reducing the deputy corps. That said, during the rule of President Lukashenka, his electoral base has changed substantially. Over the past decade, most Belarusians have moved to cities and lost their local roots. The rural population is ready to support the president, but rural residents are constantly decreasing in number.
The Belarusian leadership is likely to permit broad participation in the election campaign and an increase in alternative representatives in the local councils. However, the opposition would have to boost its activity, so as so far it has been passive in defending its interests. In addition, the authorities, while determining the date for the local elections, have taken into account the fact that the opposition is usually the least active in the winter time.
Overall, both, the opposition and the local authorities have exhausted their grassroot support, however new local leaders may still come on political stage, although the party opposition has not yet shown sufficient aspirations.