Nomenclature is not giving up on changing the electoral system

April 22, 2016 18:32

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.

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The Belarusian authorities have launched a discussion on the moratorium or abolition of the death penalty under the pressure of Belarusian human rights activists and international community. Apparently, the authorities are interested in monitoring public sentiments and response to the possible abolition of the capital punishment. The introduction of a moratorium on the death penalty would depend on the dynamics in Belarusian-European relations, efforts of the civil society organisations and Western capitals.

In Grodno last week, the possibility of abolishing the death penalty in Belarus or introducing a moratorium was discussed.

The Belarusian authorities are likely to continue to support the death penalty in Belarus. During his rule, President Lukashenka pardoned only one person, and courts sentenced to death more than 400 people since the early 1990s. Over the past year, Belarusian courts sentenced to death several persons and one person was executed.

There are no recent independent polls about people’s attitude about the death penalty in Belarus. Apparently, this issue is not a priority for the population. In many ways, public opinion about the abolition of the death penalty would depend on the tone of the state-owned media reports.

That said, the Belarusian Orthodox Church and the Roman-Catholic Church stand for the abolition of the capital punishment, however their efforts in this regard only limit to public statements about their stance. Simultaneously, the authorities could have influenced public opinion about the death penalty through a focused media campaign in the state media. As they did, for example, with the nuclear power plant construction in Astravets. Initially unpopular project of the NPP construction was broadly promoted in the state media, and eventually, according to independent pollsters, was accepted by most population.