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 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.