Opposition uses parliamentary election campaign to strengthen its position
The 2012 parliamentary elections are considered as a political, rather than an electoral campaign by all opposition forces. Apparently, no one cherishes hopes for entering the Parliament. Those parties and movements that decided to participate in the election campaign, as well as those that decided to boycott it, set the aim of the campaign as strengthening their positions in the political field. The \"moderate\" ones aim to do this through the expansion of the electoral support, and the \"radical\" ones – through strengthening their position among the traditional opposition-minded voters. At the same time, some political forces use the campaign as a part of long-term plans, seeking to increase their capacity to participate in Presidential and local elections in 2014-2015.
The 2012 parliamentary elections have become a catalyst for structuring the \"constructive\" and \"confrontational\" movements of the Belarusian opposition, who have different visions of the transformation process of the Belarusian regime and forms to influence it.
At the moment there is a convergence of views among the organizations of the “moderate” opposition, which become the basis for a long-term cooperation. The \"moderate\" wing of the opposition are represented by the \"Movement \"For Freedom \"(MFF, Milinkevich), the campaign \"Tell the Truth\" (TT, Nyaklyaeu) and the Belarusian Popular Front Party (BPF). These dominate in the coalition of six leading opposition forces, formed during 2011. In the parliamentary elections of 2012 the positions of MFF and TT coincide and provide for a full participation of activists of these organizations in the elections 2012.
The BPF has traditionally been a MFF partner and supported its initiatives. Unlike For Freedom and Tell the Truth! the party status requires the BPF to clearly formulate its official position on the participation format in the election campaign. The BPF made a decision on the conditional participation of their candidates in the parliamentary campaign with their withdrawal from the election race on the eve of early voting. However, the structures of For Freedom and the BPF are closely integrated, and many candidates who will run for Parliamentary elections represent both opposition groups.
In turn, many leaders who plan to run as Tell the Truth candidates, have, in the majority of cases, a dual loyalty to other opposition parties, mainly the United Civil Party (UCP). UCP, the Belarusian Christian Democracy (BCD), the Belarusian Party of the United Left \"Just World\" and the Belarusian Social Democratic Party (Hromada), whose central authorities decided on a conditional participation in the parliamentary campaign.
There is not yet a single coordination center among the opposition groups that use the tactics of boycotting the parliamentary campaign. The \"confrontational\" movement of the opposition is represented by the organization committee for the creation of the \"Belarusian Movement,\" the civil campaign \"European Belarus\", the Conservative Christian Party BPF, the \"Young Front\", the Belarusian Social Democratic Hromada (BSDH) and other network initiatives.
Using harsh repression against the leaders of respective organizations, the authorities have managed to significantly weaken the opposition structures, that imply a radical rhetoric. The best-known and respected representative of the movement, Andrei Sannikov, who is based on the structures of the \"Belarusian Movement”, the civil campaign \"European Belarus\" and the BSDH, was released from prison in April this year. Since then, however, he has refrained from making plans regarding his participation in the political life of the country.
Another respected representative of the \"radical\" opposition, Nikolai Statkevich, is in custody, and even if released, he will most likely be unable to participate in the election campaign in 2015.
Despite the great support potential among the radical opposition part, the probability of the return of Zenon Paznyak, the legend of the national liberation movement of the early 1990s and the leader of the Conservative Christian Party BPF, in political exile now, remains quite low.
At the same time, there has been no clear vision of the strategy for the Presidential campaign of 2015 in the actions of the other two major opposition organizations - \"Just World\", formerly Communists), and BCD, which are represented by a coalition of six leading opposition forces. However, the unification of these forces is possible around the UCP leader Lebedzko.
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.