Opposition follows track set by parliamentary campaign
Belarusian opposition remains divided along the same lines as after the autumn parliamentary elections. This split impacts the attitude towards both, the 2015 presidential election and activities in between elections. The forecast is that the split of the opposition into at least two blocks will remain until the presidential election.
In early January, the Belarusian Popular Front, the “For Freedom” and “Tell the Truth!” movements started consultations about a single candidate for the 2015 presidential election. The appearance in early 2013 of the ‘triplex’ coalition of one political party and two major social movements gives them a temporary head start to prepare for the campaign.
In turn, opposition parties that have not yet decided about their pre-election tactics, risk falling into a temporal trap and may not have the time to implement their initiatives. This is especially true for the United Civil Party, which has already proposed a procedure for determining a single opposition candidate via so-called primaries however it has not yet found allies to implement this project.
Among other proposals related to the selection process of a single candidate and forming a single coalition were: holding Coordinating Council meeting, Popular Assembly and Congress of Democratic Forces. However they all were discarded. Today opposition politicians incline towards ‘small’ coalitions based on personal and corporate connections, rather than contract binding broad opposition coalition.
Thus, in early 2013, the Belarusian opposition can be divided into three groups. The first group unites supporters of participation in the presidential election in the single candidate format (‘triplex’). The second group is yet undecided about participation in the elections in a single-candidate format. This group, however, has solidarity regarding the politicians and journalists disappeared in 1999-2000 - an extremely sensitive issue for the ruling group.
On January 24th, the UCP Party invited all democratic forces to recall the disappearances of politicians and journalists in Belarus in 1999-2000 and received a positive feedback from the organizing committee of the Belarusian Christian Democracy and the “Fair World” Party. It will be recalled that in December 2012 former head of Minsk detention center No 1 and political refugee Mr. Alkayev said that he had new evidence that could shed light on the disappearances.
Finally, the most radical opposition immigration focuses primarily on the information work. The organizing committee head of the National Revival Council Mr. Borodach runs his analytical campaigns in the internet, which do not find response from the opposition politicians in Belarus. Former presidential candidate and political refugee Mr. Sannikov also limits to interviews in European media, without making any policy statements and acts primarily as an expert on foreign policy towards Belarus.
Since there are no attempts of rapprochement between the different blocs and, in fact, there are no grounds for it, most likely outcome will be the nomination of several candidates from different political blocs. Apparently, the issue of a single opposition candidate should be removed from the agenda.
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.