Myasnikovich is lobbying Russian interests
On the eve of President Lukashenko’s urgent visit to Sochi, Prime Minister Myasnikovich entered the Belarusian-Russian negotiations on Moscow’s side. Nevertheless, it was hardly the PM’s initiative: privatization and investment issues are entirely under the President’s control.
On September 14th, Prime Minister Myasnikovich said that in 2013, Belarus will give priority to Russian investors while implementing the National Investment Programme for at least USD 4.5 billion
Such a frank statement by Myasnikovich before Lukashenko’s visit to Sochi on 15 September,- a visit of great importance for the Belarusian economy - was yet another move in the complex Belarusian-Russian negotiations. It is highly unlikely that Myasnikovich did not agree his statement with the President in advance: otherwise he would be looking at near retirement. Myasnikovich’s statement allows Minsk to make promises without obligations, exercising “good faith”.
With the acute financial situation, and the final stages of the elections campaign in sight, President Lukashenko was forced to make a difficult decision in Russia’s favour. The situation is similar to the one before the elections in 2010, when he signed the agreements on the Common Economic Space.
It is likely that this time round, the decision will be to transfer control over the Belarusian Potash Company to the Russian company “Uralkali”. In particular, on September 13th, Belarusian state TV Channel broadcasted a show about privatization, with obsessive visuals from the “Belaruskali” mines. Also as a result of negotiations for a new potash trader “Soyuzkaly”, Russia will get to own the majority of stakes.
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.