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.
Over the past year, military-political relations between Minsk and Kyiv have become complicated. Due to their high inertia and peculiarities, this downward trend would be extremely difficult to overcome.
The root cause of the crisis is the absence of a common political agenda in the Belarusian-Ukrainian relations. Minsk is looking for a market for Belarusian exports in Ukraine and offers its services as a negotiation platform for the settlement of the Russo-Ukrainian war, thereby hoping to avoid political issues in the dialogue with Kiev. Meanwhile, Ukraine is hoping for political support from Minsk in the confrontation with Moscow. In addition, Ukraine’s integration with NATO presupposes her common position with the Alliance in relation to Belarus. The NATO leadership regards the Belarusian Armed Forces as an integral part of the Russian military machine in the western strategic front (the Baltic states and Poland). In addition, the ongoing military reform in Ukraine envisages a reduction in the number of generals and the domestic political struggle makes some Ukrainian top military leaders targets in politically motivated attacks.
Hence, the criticism of Belarus coming from Ukrainian military leadership is dictated primarily by internal and external political considerations, as well as by the need to protect the interests of generals, and only then by facts.
For instance, initially, the Ukrainian military leadership made statements about 100,000 Russian servicemen allegedly taking part in the Russo-Belarusian military drill West-2017. Then the exercises were labelled quazi-open and military observers from Ukraine refused to provide their assessment, which caused a negative reaction in Minsk. Further, without citing specific facts, it was stated that Russia was building up its military presence in Belarus.
Apparently, the Belarusian and Ukrainian Defence Ministries have entangled in a confrontational spiral (on the level of rhetoric). Moreover, only a small part of the overly hidden process has been disclosed. That said, third states are very likely to take advantage of the situation (or have already done so). This is not only about Russia.
The Belarusian Defence Ministry officials are restrained in assessing their Ukrainian counterparts. However, such a restraint is not enough. Current military-political relations between Belarus and Ukraine are unlikely to stabilise without the intervention of both presidents.