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.
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.