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 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.