Government in exile project fails to find supporters
Last week the public debate about the prospects for Belarusian opposition focal point in exile continued. Politicians, civil society representatives and experts shared their views about it.
Belarusian opposition politicians and civic leaders do not yet support the idea of a single focal point for the opposition and the shadow government in exile, which was recently proposed by some former employees of the Belarusian secret services. Obstacles for the implementation of this project are the lack of mutual trust within the opposition and insufficient political support from abroad.
Currently the Belarusian Social Democratic Hramada, the Belarusian Popular Front, United Civic Party, “For Freedom” movement and “Tell the truth!” have already objected this idea. Civil society representatives also have a negative attitude towards the government in exile project.
The project has not yet been supported by the Belarusian population either. The main public figure behind this initiative is a former Special Forces Colonel Borodach and the eminence grise in the international political level is the former Head of the Advisory and Monitoring Group in Minsk and Chairman of Germany-based NGO “Human Rights in Belarus” Mr. Hans-Georg Wieck.
The most common arguments against this idea are as follows:
- introduction of a single focal point for the opposition abroad will not allow the opposition to manage their activities efficiently inside the country;
- the new initiative is redundant, as it would duplicate functions of already existing Belarusian People’s Republic Rada;
- the majority believes, that project initiators lack sufficient authority, as they mainly represent no one but themselves.
The last argument is decisive. It is likely that if the project receives political support from the governments of several countries, there will be willing participants among the Belarusian opposition to take part in it. Currently the project has been indirectly supported by Lithuania: On May 15th, Foreign Minister Mr. Ažubalis said that Lithuania “together with our American friends need to start thinking about the transitional council for Belarus”. Other countries in the region yet remain neutral about this issue.
Meanwhile, in anticipation of changes in the geopolitical context, the Belarusian opposition is gradually deciding on medium-term action strategies. In particular, the Conservative Christian Party Belarusian Popular Front and its leader Zianon Pazniak have announced commencement of preparations for the presidential election. On May 24th, the leader of the “For Freedom” movement, Mr. Milinkevich, named his strategic goal – to start preparation for the presidential election.
Today it would be premature to talk about the content of Belarusian opposition’s new strategies. Nevertheless, the initiative to create a shadow government had a positive impact on making the opposition to think and formulate medium-term strategies for the next 4-5 years. The new oppositional configuration could occur if political forces in Eastern Europe and the USA become more involved in this process.
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.