The opposition has no resources to protect the elections’ fairness and transparency

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April 22, 2016 18:19

The opposition managed to provide evidence that official data on voter turnout at the polls was questionable. However, the authorities will ignore these appeals, because oppositional political and social forces have no effective tools to protect their interests. Meanwhile, the short-term mobilization effect from the campaign curtailed.

Following elections on September 23rd, a number of human rights and public opposition groups presented their results of the parliamentary elections monitoring and appealed to the authorities with a demand to annul the election results in some constituencies. 

Evidence of the artificially increased voter turnout at some polls provided by the opposition is quite convincing. In particular, several opposition parties and movements have managed to organize monitoring at all polls in the Frunzenski district of Minsk № 101 during the early and primary voting and recorded 35.69% turnout against official 58.8%. As a result, they have filed a request to the Central Election Commission to annul and void the election results in this constituency. 

Generally, the official data on the voter turnout in the country significantly differed from the results of independent monitoring. For instance, Human Rights Defenders for Free Elections campaign had 295 observers at 150 polling stations all over Belarus and came to the conclusion that the real turnout was at odds with the official data (74.6%) on average by 18.8% and therefore was within the 50% threshold needed to recognize the elections. However, in a number of urban constituencies the turnout was less than 50%, first of all in Minsk, where the official turnout was 59.2%. 

Despite these differences, it is extremely difficult to say accurately what was the real voter turnout and to challenge the probable fraud or even the more so, to hold another elections. First, the opposition does not have the necessary human resources, and - most importantly – it is not opposition’s goal. On September 25th, 7 opposition groups - the United Civic Party, the youth organization “Young Front”, organizing committee of the “Belarusian Christian Democracy” (BCD) party, “Belarusian ruh”, Independent Trade Union in electronic industry, Rada of the Belarusian intelligentsia and “European Belarus” civil campaign – initiated an information campaign about violations during the elections. It means they have accepted the official elections results.

Second, after the election campaign opposition’s information resources returned back to meager state, mostly limited to Internet, as well as foreign, primarily Western media. In these circumstances the mobilization effect from the election campaign, which was extremely inert anyway, disappeared very quickly. Third, as we have already noted, the opposition did not set a goal to win seats in the Parliament and treated this campaign either as an information platform to communicate with the population or as a preparation for the 2015 Presidential campaign.

Finally, we have to face the truth, that today the opposition’s ability to counteract the authorities is very small. This applies not only to the ‘conventional’ opposition, but also for example, to the Liberal Democratic Party, which had 71 candidates registered however haven’t won any seats, even in the non-alternative Gomel-Navabelitski district.

Official statistics says, in the Gomel-Navabelitski district the only candidate Mel’nikov (from LDPB Party) failed to gather the required number of votes. Second round of elections will be held there in 2014. Meanwhile, official data says, the turnout in this district was 50%. It was an obvious insult to the LDPB party and they have not made any visible attempts to challenge this situation in court. This means that Belarusian political actors find themselves in very rigid frameworks and lack tools/resources to counter the authorities.

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Growth in real wages may disrupt macroeconomic balance in Belarus
October 02, 2017 12:12
Фото: Дмитрий Брушко, TUT.BY

The rapid increase in wages has led to a decline in the ratio between labour productivity and real wages to one. Previously, the rule was that enterprises, in which the state owned more than 50% of shares in the founding capital, were not allowed increasing salaries if this ratio was equal to or less than one. The authorities are unlikely to be able to meet the wage growth requirement without long-term consequences for the economy. Hence, the government is likely to contain wage growth for the sake of economic growth.

According to Belstat, In January – August 2017, GDP growth was 1.6%. The economic revival has led to an increase in wages. In August, the average monthly wage was BYN 844.4 or USD 435, i.e. grew by 6.6% since early 2017, adjusted for inflation. This has reduced the ratio between labour productivity and real wages from 1.03 in January 2017 to 1 in the first seven months of 2017. This parameter should not be less than 1, otherwise, the economy starts accumulating imbalances.

The need for faster growth in labour productivity over wage growth was stated in Decree No 744 of July 31st, 2014. The decree enabled wages growth at state organizations and organizations with more than 50% of state-owned shares only if the ratio between growth in labour productivity and wages was higher than 1. Taking into account the state's share in the economy, this rule has had impact on most of the country's key enterprises. In 2013 -2014 wages grew rapidly, which resulted in devaluation in 2014-2015.

Faster wage growth as compared with growth in labour productivity carries a number of risks. Enterprises increase cost of wages, which subsequently leads to a decrease in the competitiveness of products on the domestic and foreign markets. In construction, wholesale, retail trade, and some other industries the growth rate of prime cost in 2017 outpaces the dynamics of revenue growth. This is likely to lead to a decrease in profits and a decrease in investments for further development. Amid wage growth, the population is likely to increase import consumption and reduce currency sales, which would reduce the National Bank's ability to repay foreign and domestic liabilities.

The Belarusian government is facing a dilemma – either to comply with the president’s requirement of a BYN 1000 monthly wage, which could lead to new economic imbalances and could further affect the national currency value, or to suspend the wage growth in order to retain the achieved economic results. That said, the first option bears a greater number of negative consequences for the nomenclature.

Overall, the rapid growth in wages no longer corresponds the pace of economic development. The government is likely to retain the economic growth and retrain further growth in wages. Staff reshuffles are unlikely to follow the failure to meet the wage growth requirement.

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