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.
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.