The opposition is more active in the regions on the eve of local elections

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April 22, 2016 18:35

Belarusian opposition forces have continued their campaign in the regions this week.

Despite the ‘dead’ holiday season, the approaching elections to the local councils activate the opposition and increase competition in the political arena of the country. The most visible effect of these actions of the opposition is growing recognition and strengthening of regional opposition structures. Success of the opposition is still defined by the feedback or nonfeasance of the authorities. 

Representatives of the civic campaign ‘Tell the Truth’, movement ‘For Freedom’ and the Belarusian Popular Front continued canvassing in the regions as a part of the campaign ‘National Referendum’. In particular, two groups visited a number of cities in the Brest region and met with local market traders and democratic activists. The initiators of the ‘National Referendum’ campaign ask citizens to establish a register of problematic socio-economic and political issues that need to be solved at the national level: tax rates, wages, the quality of public services, the reform of the electoral system etc. 

The organisational committee of the ‘Belarusian Christian Democracy’ party has commenced two initiatives: the establishment of the community headquarters against African swine fever and campaign to protect the rights of taxi drivers. The foundation of the community headquarters against ASF coincided with the time when residents of so-called buffer sanitary zones had to liquidate the pigstock as ordained by the government. Because of this, for example, a spontaneous unrest of local residents took place in the Berezovsk rayon (province) of the Brest region. The second initiative of the BCD is related to the probable drafting of the government bill on new rules of organisation of taxi services that could affect the requirements as regards technical parameters of motor vehicles.

The positive impact of these initiatives can be seen at least in the geographical expansion of the activities of the opposition and creation of competing political projects (the project ‘National Referendum’ by ‘the triad’ and the ‘National Deputy’ project of the BCD). This intensification of activity is related to upcoming elections to local councils, as this election campaign is the most local in nature, which forces activists to act away from the capital and regional centers - the main areas of activity of the opposition during parliamentary and presidential campaigns. 

The future of the above projects will become clearer when they move from the planning to the implementation stage. Namely, when and whether the initiators of the ‘National Referendum’ campaign will form a list of issues and start gathering signatures, and the initiators of the ‘National Deputy’ programme will actively represent the interests of the pigs’ owners and taxi drivers. The future of these initiatives will be determined by the feedback of the citizens.

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Belarusian and Ukrainian Defence Ministries entangle in confrontation spiral
October 02, 2017 11:57
Фото: RFRM

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.

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