No surprises in the new Parliament
Basic informal quotas in the Parliament’s composition have been respected, which demonstrates deputies’ loyalty and controllability. The number of the “Belaya Rus” quango members is very high in the new Parliament however there is no reason to expect independence from these deputies.
On September 28th the Central Election Commission approved the list with 109 registered members of the House of Representatives of the 5th convocation and the upper chamber, the Council of the Republic.
The main sign of preserving the old parliament’s role in the Belarusian system of government is adherence to informal quotas in the formation of the new Deputies corps. In particular, the succession quota (20-25%), proposed by Lukashenko a while ago has been fully observed: 21 member of the Parliament’s 4th convocation was successfully nominated, registered and elected to the 5th convocation. Gender quota was also well respected: 26.6% of MPs are women. Finally, Parliament is completely sterile from the opposition, and the number of party members is the lowest - 4.6%.
Compliance with these quotas means that the new parliament will remain loyal and fully accountable to the Presidential Administration and will rubber stamp the legislation proposed by ‘higher’ power echelons. The high number of “Belaya Rus” members is somewhat surprising (63 Deputies, i.e. the majority), in particular, given the floating discussions about its likely transformation into a political party.
However, one should keep in mind that so far all attempts of “Belaya Rus” members to raise their status in the Belarusian political system were successfully suppressed by the government, which is not interested in political reforms.
Finally, “Belaya Rus” had its lobby in the Parliament before, inter alia at a high level: Mr. Huminski was Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, and Deputy Batura was a member of the Council of the Republic and the Minsk Region Governor, etc. However, this had no impact on changing the organization’s status.
Elections results to the upper Parliament chamber, the Council of the Republic, on September 25th were totally predictable. 56 candidates, 8 from each region, were nominated, registered and approved in a festive atmosphere without any intrigue. Eight other members will appointed by President Lukashenko. In the Belarusian political system Council of the Republic plays an even more symbolic role than the lower parliament’s chamber. Therefore no political surprises should be anticipated from this body.
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.