Official Minsk interested in Ukraine successfully holding early presidential elections

April 22, 2016 18:50

The Belarusian authorities are supportive of the Ukrainian authorities’ decision to hold early presidential elections on May 25th this year and to stabilize the situation in Ukraine’s southeast. Belarus will send her monitors to observe the vote in Ukraine, which, in her view, might ensure Kiev authorities’ loyalty and might improve her relations with the West. However, the recognition by Belarus of the presidential election results will depend on Russia’s stance and developments in the southeast of Ukraine.

The Belarus’ Central Election Committee has received an invitation to observe the presidential elections in Ukraine.

Belarus has supported the Kiev authorities’ decision to hold the presidential elections on May 25th this year, underscoring that it is “the inherent sovereign right of the Ukrainian people”.

The Belarusian authorities plan to send their observers to the upcoming elections in Ukraine “as the national delegation and within the framework of election observation missions by regional organisations". Belarus’ Foreign Ministry Spokesman Mironchik emphasised that “Ukraine desperately needs a stable government whose legitimacy will be based on the outcome of free elections.”

The Belarusian authorities are interested in the prompt conflict resolution in Ukraine, since it has already started having a negative impact on the Belarus’ economy and has increased Belarus’ risks amid unpredictable foreign policy of the Kremlin. 

The protracted conflict in Ukraine has negative consequences for the Belarusian-Ukrainian trade and economic relations. For example, in January-March 2014, trade between the two countries fell by almost 15%, Belarusian exports fell by 7% and imports – by 30%. Ukraine is Belarus’ the second largest trade partner in terms of turnover, and in terms of significant trade surplus.

The Russo-Ukrainian conflict has increased Belarus’ dependence on the Kremlin’s policy. Unlike in previous years, Belarus’ investment costs in the ‘Eurasian integration’ have increased considerably compared with the received benefits. Besides, Russia’s resources have also been dwindling after her invasion of Ukraine and she has fewer means to buy the loyalty of the neighbouring states, including Belarus.

It should be noted, that the Belarus’ president attempted to disavow the statements he made after the meeting in Moscow, which were closely repeating the Russian propaganda as regards events in Ukraine’s southeastern regions. At a meeting with the Ukrainian Ambassador Mykhailo Yezhel on May15th, President Lukashenko reiterated that his previous statements concerning Ukraine’s territorial integrity, undesirability of her federalisation and recognition of the authorities in Kiev remained unchanged: “Ukraine has to remain a united state. Her 45 million population is our brotherly nation”.

Having Belarus’ official observers at the presidential elections in Ukraine implies that the authorities in Minsk may count on the loyalty of the new authorities in Kiev, which will be particularly important when the presidential campaign kicks off in Belarus in 2015. In addition, the Belarusian authorities aspire that related viewpoints with the European Union might improve contacts with Brussels without additional conditions.

Depending on the Moscow’s stance and peculiarities of the vote in the southeastern Ukraine, the authorities in Minsk may recognize the elections’ outcomes however with certain reservations. Meanwhile, regardless of what they say, the Belarusian leadership is interested in developing the Belarusian-Ukrainian economic relations.

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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.