New political cycle: the opposition is on its own trail
The inability to solve its main strategic task (the regime change) inflicts competition among the opposition forces or forces them to act in collective self-defense. All tactics proposed by the opposition to counteract Lukashenko have already been proved unsuccessful before and will be successfully neutralized by the authorities in the future.
In the course of the week, various political forces in Belarus made a number of statements and decisions about their future political activities.
On November 8th, the United Civil Party Political Council called for the selection of a single opposition candidate via primaries. Before the year-end the party intends to consult with 13 political structures, which were to take part in the primaries in 2009, as well as with new political actors. Earlier, the Liberal Democratic Party of Belarus also expressed the desire to enter presidential race in 2015 and invited all interested and “weigh” political organizations in the country to determine their real impact in a joint mass action not later than autumn 2013. Moreover, the majority of the opposition political actors have already announced their plans to take part in the next presidential campaign.
As noted earlier, the actions of the Belarusian “conventional” and “non-conventional” (LDPB) opposition do not go beyond the electoral cycle and suggest that Lukashenko’s regime – due to efforts of his political opponents – will be forced to hold free and fair elections in compliance with international standards, and the opposition will win. At the same time, the authorities have repeatedly demonstrated that they are ready to play only by their own rules. Therefore, the repetition by the opposition of their previous electoral tactics related to building coalitions or determining a single candidate is unlikely to succeed. Another contributing factor to this is the increased competition among various oppositional political players after the last parliamentary elections in September.
At the same time, while abroad, the opposition demonstrates a desire to freeze the status quo and to protect themselves from “government in exile” project, which would threaten the existing foreign support to the opposition. Therefore, despite the mutual differences, on November 3rd, in Vilnius some opposition organizations signed a memorandum on joint activities of the Belarusian opposition and Rada of the Belarusian People’s Republic. The document recognizes the status of the BNR Rada as a non-partisan, overarching-political body of the Belarusian statehood until the democratic government is elected in Belarus. De facto, this memorandum guarantees the immutability of the BNR’s foreign authority from third parties’ attacks. In particular, previously doubts about the legitimacy of the Rada had been expressed by Borodach, Head of the newly founded Organizing Committee of the National Revival Board.
The memorandum was signed by the main Belarusian opposition forces: United Civil Party (A. Dobrowolski), “Young Front” (Nikolai Demidenko), Rada of the Belarusian intelligentsia (Kolosov), “Nash Dom” campaign (Olga Karatch), “For Freedom” movement (Aliaksandr Milinkevich), Belarusian Social Democratic Hramada (Stanislav Shushkevich), BPF (Aliaksey Yanukevich), Conservative-Christian Democracy Party BPF (Zianon Paznyak), organizing committee of the Belarusian Christian Democracy, the Organizing Committee of the National Revival Board (Vladimir Borodach), Organizing Committee of “Belaruski Rukh” (Vintsuk Vyachorka) and Rada BNR (Ivonka Survilla).
In the short term (one-two years) the most likely scenario for the Belarusian opposition will be the continuation of competition for the right to lead the “single candidate” project, while trying to demonstrate the unity of views and tactics abroad. It should be anticipated, if the socio-economic situation in the country deteriorates, the opposition will not go beyond the electoral cycle, and will continue preparations for the presidential election, as they consider this project a priority.
President Lukashenka continues to rotate staff and rejuvenate heads of departments and universities following new appointments in regional administrations. Apparently, new Information Minister Karliukevich could somewhat relax the state policy towards the independent media and introduce technological solutions for retaining control over Belarus’ information space. New rectors could strengthen the trend for soft Belarusization in the regions and tighten the disciplinary and ideological control over the student movement in the capital.
President Lukashenka has appointed new ministers of culture and information, the new rector of the Belarusian State University and heads of three universities, assistants in the Minsk and Vitebsk regions.
The new Information Minister Karliukevich is likely to avoid controversial initiatives similar to those former Minister Ananich was famous for, however, certainly within his capacities. Nevertheless, the appointment of Belarusian-speaking writer Karliukevich could be regarded as the state’s cautious attempt to relax environment in the media field and ensure the sovereignty of national media.
The Belarusian leadership has consolidated the trend for mild Belarusization by appointing a young historian and a ‘reasonable nationalist’, Duk as the rector at the Kuleshov State University in Mogilev. Meanwhile, while choosing the head of the Belarusian State University, the president apparently had in mind the strengthening of the ideological loyalty among the teaching staff and students at the main university in order to keep the youth movement at bay. Previously, Korol was the rector of the Kupala State University in Grodno, where he held purges among the disloyal teaching staff.
The trend for the renewal of mid-ranking executives and their rejuvenation has confirmed. The age of the Culture Minister and three new rectors varies from 39 to 44 years old.