Lukashenko launched a "survival" parliamentary race
On the one hand, Lukashenko’s statement about the desired quota of continuity in the new parliament (20-25%) is an informal launch of the election campaign for the current MPs. On the other, it could be regarded as a signal to the nomenclature and the West to discuss the composition of the remaining 75-80% of the future MPs.
On 10 February President Lukashenko met with Chairman of the House of Representatives Vladimir Andreichenko and said that it would be desirable to maintain only 20-25% of the Deputies in the new Parliament and advised the Deputies to start working actively on preparing for the elections in the regions.
Inside the country Lukashenko’s statement will be interpreted as the launch of the election campaign for the most ambitious Deputies. Parliamentarians received an impetus to act to realize the possibility of being re-elected for another term and to get into the presidential quota. However, the size of the informal quota is the smallest in the last three election campaigns. Continuity of the Parliament of the 2nd convocation as compared with the first was 32% (2000 elections), the 3rd convocation as compared with the 2nd provided for 42% (2004), and the 4th to the 3rd was 27% (2008).
Therefore the Lukashenko’s statement should be regarded as a survival race by the parliamentarians. His statement speaks rather in favour of disregard by the President of the Deputies, than showing confidence in them.
On 10 February Lukashenko appeared in the prime time on TV and in his usual style of a “macho man”, he addressed his interlocutors using polite and impolite forms of ‘you’ interchangeably, as well, he used extremely vague phrases as “I think”, “I believe” and “maybe you should”. As a rule Lukashenko speaks to reporters in such a frivolous manner.
Nevertheless, during the meeting he outlined to the MPs the terms for obtaining state support for re-election. Namely, he said that the Presidential Administration expects MPs to support the state social and economic policy in the regions and to keep up hopes of the population that the living standards growth will be maintained. These conditions were entirely predictable and have been previously voiced by the president to all potential domestic political partners.
It is likely that these statements by Lukashenko came in response to the visit of a representative of the European External Action Service Mr. Wiegand to Minsk on February 8-10. The official purpose of the visit was to establish a dialogue on the modernization of the Republic of Belarus. The main details and results of the visit have not yet been disclosed however the content and style of the statements made by Lukashenko during his meeting with Andreichenko allow for assumptions that the Administration considered the resumption of a dialogue as an option. First of all, the announced quota of 20-25% speaks in this favour.
Such a reduction of the quota indicates the willingness of the authorities to use the parliamentary campaign in autumn 2012 as a platform for the resumption of a political dialogue with the West, similar to the parliamentary elections in 2008. Those MPs that will not get to the new Parliament will be involuntary “victims” of the resumption of the dialogue, again similar to the 2008 elections.
Over the past year, military-political relations between Minsk and Kyiv have become complicated. Due to their high inertia and peculiarities, this downward trend would be extremely difficult to overcome.
The root cause of the crisis is the absence of a common political agenda in the Belarusian-Ukrainian relations. Minsk is looking for a market for Belarusian exports in Ukraine and offers its services as a negotiation platform for the settlement of the Russo-Ukrainian war, thereby hoping to avoid political issues in the dialogue with Kiev. Meanwhile, Ukraine is hoping for political support from Minsk in the confrontation with Moscow. In addition, Ukraine’s integration with NATO presupposes her common position with the Alliance in relation to Belarus. The NATO leadership regards the Belarusian Armed Forces as an integral part of the Russian military machine in the western strategic front (the Baltic states and Poland). In addition, the ongoing military reform in Ukraine envisages a reduction in the number of generals and the domestic political struggle makes some Ukrainian top military leaders targets in politically motivated attacks.
Hence, the criticism of Belarus coming from Ukrainian military leadership is dictated primarily by internal and external political considerations, as well as by the need to protect the interests of generals, and only then by facts.
For instance, initially, the Ukrainian military leadership made statements about 100,000 Russian servicemen allegedly taking part in the Russo-Belarusian military drill West-2017. Then the exercises were labelled quazi-open and military observers from Ukraine refused to provide their assessment, which caused a negative reaction in Minsk. Further, without citing specific facts, it was stated that Russia was building up its military presence in Belarus.
Apparently, the Belarusian and Ukrainian Defence Ministries have entangled in a confrontational spiral (on the level of rhetoric). Moreover, only a small part of the overly hidden process has been disclosed. That said, third states are very likely to take advantage of the situation (or have already done so). This is not only about Russia.
The Belarusian Defence Ministry officials are restrained in assessing their Ukrainian counterparts. However, such a restraint is not enough. Current military-political relations between Belarus and Ukraine are unlikely to stabilise without the intervention of both presidents.