No party of power will be created in Belarus
On October 19, Chairman of the quango “Belaya Rus” Mr.Radkov announced that it would not be transformed into a political party.
Belarusian nomenclature elites submitted to President Lukashenko’s decision. However, it does not necessarily mean that no other party of power will be established in Belarus before the next parliamentary elections of 2016. “Belaya Rus” will focus its effort on work with electorate instead.
The decision which Radkov voiced means that a group of public servants from Lukashenko’s milieu have not acquired sufficient influence over him. Thus, “Belaya Rus” is not capable of lobbying the issue of transforming their organisation into a political party. Moreover, they are obviously not in a position to decide on the transition from the current majority electoral system to proportional or mixed.
As a result, the question of political prospects for “Belaya Rus” has been postponed, at least until the next parliamentary election of 2016.
It is worth noting that the precedent of October 19 grants the head of state unwritten rights to close the issue of electoral reform in the Republic of Belarus due to the fact that at present there is no socio-political entity which could be compared to “Belaya Rus” in terms of size and influence, and could initiate political reform.
In terms of image, the precedent clearly illustrates that lobbyists from “Belaya Rus” have been defeated. For several years, they have aimed to raise the status of their organisation, voicing this idea both publically and behind the scenes. First and foremost these were Mr. Radkov, who is also First Deputy Head of the Presidential Administration, as well as Information Minister of Belarus, Oleg Proleskovsky, and Chairman of Council of the Republic, Anatoly Rubinov.
As a result, activists from “Belaya Rus” have to put up with their dwindled ambitions and focus on their traditional social activities, namely, promoting the state policy and supporting governmental initiatives in practice.
“Belaya Rus” will most likely participate in other election campaigns, to local Councils of Deputies in 2014 as well as in the 2015presidential elections where, according to Radkov, it will represent “a President’s majority”. This will be achieved by providing infrastructural support for the desirable candidates (a network of public receptions, “Belaya Rus”, mass media etc.
There is a possibility that “Belaya Rus” will use the Russian Popular Front established by Russian President Vladimir Putin as a role model for further development. On October 18, Putin doubted the expediency of transforming the Front into a political party as he believes it will immediately limit the scope of its activities. However, there is a significant difference between “Belaya Rus” and the Russian Popular Front. The initiative to establish the former came not from Lukashenko, but from Belarusian nomenclature and was viewed as a tool to control civil society. These two facts allow President Lukashenko to disparage the political ambitions of “BR” members.
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.