Local elections: only Minsk shows initiative, regions are virtually excluded
The local election campaign in Belarus is coming to a halt – early voting starts in 10 days. Still, the overwhelming majority of candidates have not yet started a fully-fledged election campaign – out of 22,000 candidates for deputies, as few as 490 candidates for deputies opened the score.
At that, political activity is concentrated exclusively in Minsk, participation of the regions in the electoral process is extremely low: out of 8,395 announced mass events 7,452 are held in Minsk while as few as 11% are carried out in the remaining six regions combined. So far the authorities have managed to successfully implement their electoral scenario which prevents society from being ’politicised’ at the stage of election canvassing. Mobilisation of local authorities, pro-governmental NGOs and state-run mass media is foreseen at the stage of voting to ensure the required voter turnout.
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.