Nomenclature is not giving up on changing the electoral system
On June 11th, Central Election Commission Chairwoman Lidia Yermoshina, in an interview with Euroradio, stated that Belarus had been studying the electoral reform: transition to the proportional representation electoral system.
Despite the President’s negative attitude, some Belarusian officials continue their attempts to change the current majoritarian electoral system. Consequently, Lukashenko strengthens efforts to combat corruption.
Lydia Yarmoshina made some remarkable statements. First, she recognized that “officials, who determine state policy, were considering the introduction of a proportional system in Belarus”. Potentially, she referred to First Deputy Head of the Presidential Administration Radkov, who also leads Belaya Rus republican public association.
Second, Yarmoshina publicly stated that she supported the proportional electoral system. Her position is not new, but with her statement, CEC Head has once again directly supported the nomenclature lobby, which is interested in the appearance of an officials’ party in Belarus and in a corresponding change in the current majoritarian system to improve lobbying abilities for parties.
Thus, Yarmoshina made it clear that from the organizational and technical views, electoral reform was feasible, and that the Central Committee was ready to provide support. This implies changing the Constitution (to abolish the Deputy’s recall) and making necessary amendments to the Electoral Code. According to Yarmoshina, all this can be done, provided that the political decision about the reform was made.
It is noteworthy that, despite the clearly negative Lukahsenko’s attitude to changes in the electoral system, Belarusian nomenclature keeps trying pushing for such changes. The interview with Yarmoshina was linked with the public opinion survey held in Belarus by telephone, studying people’s attitudes towards Belaya Rus quango, the creation of a new Belarusian Social Democratic Party and the electoral system reform.
Presumably, Belarusian nomenklatura groups, mainly formed around Belaya Rus quango (lists more than 130 thousand members), will continue to lobby electoral system reform discussions. Active political actions by this extremely cautious Belarusian nomenclature group are not to be anticipated: most likely they will use the inertial pressure tactics (polls, round tables, media coverage) to gather arguments to ‘prove’ the “broad public support” for the electoral reform.
In particular, Belaya Rus is cautiously cooperating with the political parties in the information sphere. Thus, immediately after the parliamentary elections, Belaya Rus leaders published an article in the Belaruskaya Dumka journal about round table discussions with the participation of political parties’ representatives. Most recently, Belaya Rus web-site published a historical reference about the Liberal Democratic Party in Belarus.
President Lukashenko has no interest in reforming the electoral system, which obviously could undermine his legitimacy as the ‘people’s president’ and would hamper the control over political (and legal) process if a political fraction appeared in Belarusian Parliament. Therefore Lukashenko’s objective interest is to counterbalance the nomenclature, which is what he does: he increased the frequency of meetings with the law enforcement agencies representatives, demanding to strengthen the anti-corruption fight.
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.