Opposition: steps towards consolidation
On 11 April the National Coordinating Council of the Democratic Forces of Belarus adopted a statement regarding the “conditions for the participation of the Belarusian democratic forces in the election campaigns”.
In the statement, the Council members demanded to release all political prisoners, to cease political repressions in the country, to respect constitutional rights and freedoms, to reform the electoral system and particularly underlined the reservation of their right to boycott the upcoming election campaign if the demands they put forward were not fulfilled.
The statement should be regarded as an important step towards the likely consolidation of the alternative political forces in Belarus after the 2010 Presidential election campaign. The collective boycott strategy could become a strong argument while making the authorities listen to the demands of the opposition, given it could be implemented. In the past decade this strategy has been regularly discussed however was never implemented to the extent, when the governmental candidate could find him/herself in a situation of no alternative.
The potential boycott of elections by the opposition is doubtful. In fact, the history and inner logic of the opposition movement in Belarus shows that the strategy of boycotting the elections is the most difficult to carry out. The last three presidential campaigns since 2001 demonstrate that the opposition has been consistently breaking up its participation in the elections: from the single candidate in 2001 to two candidates in 2006 and seven candidates in 2010.
Last week, Belarusian Foreign Minister Makei participated in the foreign ministers’ meeting of the Eastern Partnership and Visegrad Group initiative hosted by Warsaw. The Belarusian FM emphasized Belarus' interest in cooperation in the transport sector, which could be due to Belarus’ desire to export electricity surplus after Belarus finished construction of the nuclear power plant in Ostrovets. Minsk expressed concerns about Warsaw’s stance on the Belarusian NPP, as it refused to buy electricity from Belarus and supported Vilnius’ protest on this issue. Following accusations by the Belarusian leadership and the state media against western states, including Poland, of training "nationalist militants", Minsk did not agree on the visit of the European Parliament deputies from Lithuania and Germany to Belarus and to the NPP construction site near Ostrovets in particular. In addition, the Belarusian authorities have stepped up efforts to enforce education in Russian in Polish-language schools in Grodno and Vaukavysk. Should a rift in Belarusian-Polish relations persist, the Belarusian authorities are likely to step up the pressure on the Polish-speaking minority in Belarus.