Opposition coalitions form according to core-periphery model
On May 20th, in Minsk, the opposition coalition, so-called “Trio” - the BPF, “For Freedom” Movement and “Tell the Truth!” - announced the launch of a joint ‘Popular Referendum’ campaign.
Important opposition group has launched a long-term strategy for joint action. Inside the Belarusian opposition two coalitions continue shaping up - the “rightist” and “leftist”. Simultaneously, political periphery forms from various parties and groups within Belarus and abroad.
The “Trio” management emphasized the informal nature of their coalition, implying they created a platform for coordination of joint political action, rather than merging parties and programmes. The coalition’s peculiarity is its long-term cooperation. Participants plan to cooperate in the next three political campaigns: 2013-2014 local elections, 2015 presidential elections and 2016 parliamentary elections.
Content wise, the “National Referendum” is still uncertain. During summer, its initiators plan to tour 30 Belarusian cities to meet with the electorate and to formulate the most pressing social and political issues. Then, during the local elections, they will launch a petition campaign for a referendum on issues identified after consultations with citizens and experts. The collected signatures will be used to put pressure on the government to speed up political transformations. Coalition members do not rule out the potential nomination of a coalition’s single candidate for the presidential elections.
Thus, currently, at least two coalitions form within the Belarusian opposition: so-called “rightist” (“Trio”) and so-called “leftist” (Leftist Platform). The “Trio” coalition seems to have better coordination, as it has already presented a coherent approach to foreign and domestic policies (in its recent statement “Greater Europe for Belarus”).
Finally, there is a variety of political parties and organizations outside the coalition process. Firstly, the United Civic Party, which single-handedly promotes its “primaries” project (the principle of defining a single candidate in the presidential elections), and secondly, a number of non-registered organizations in Belarus and in exile, which, with varying degrees of radicalism call for the elections’ and regime’s boycott.
The latter include the Belarusian Christian Democracy Organizing Committee (Mr. Rymashevski), European Belarus campaign (Mr. Sannikov). As anticipated, they negatively reacted to the “Trio’s” initiative. In particular, Sannikov accused the “Trio” members of an attempt to legitimize the dictatorship, Rymashevski called the project ‘hazy’, Belarusian Social Democratic Gromada Chairman Shushkevich called “Trio’s” initiative a nonsense, and CCP BPF Chairman Pozniak – ‘a joke’. Alternatively, the media welcomed the “Trio’s” idea.
Following crackdown and arrests of participants in the spring protests, the authorities resumed arrests as punishment for participating in street protests in addition to fines, which for some time were the only punishment for political activity. On September 22nd, 2017, the riot police detained the Belarusian National Congress leader Nikolai Statkevich, the opposition politician was placed in detention centre on Akrestin street. On the same day, after serving seven days of arrest, another BNC leader, Vladimir Neklyaev, was released. He was sentenced for organising a street protest on September 8th against the West-2017 exercises. Other participants in the protest have been fined too. The authorities are likely to continue to use fines and arrests against political activists to punish for their protest activity.