Opposition’s negotiations over single candidate nomination are futile

April 22, 2016 19:00

The Belarusian opposition has not chosen a single candidate for the 2015 presidential elections due to the lack of a clear leader. The single candidate nomination process is delayed, increasing chances for a  re-play of the 2010 scenario with a large number of candidates and fragmented resources for campaigning. Nevertheless, it is likely that amid events in Ukraine, the lack of resources and the low motivation among the opposition could prompt the opposition parties to form blocks in order to nominate their candidates as a matter of compromise.

The opposition parties held a poll among its members to rank the potential ‘single candidates’ from the opposition.

The leading opposition parties taking part in talks over nomination procedures for a single candidate in the 2015 elections have yet to reach an agreement on procedural matters. Meanwhile, the Congress of Democratic Forces is scheduled to take place in December 2014 – January 2015.

The elections are drawing closer, but the opposition still has time to hold the Congress and nominate a single candidate for the 2015 elections. While talking to the Russian regional media, President Lukashenko said that the presidential elections were planned for autumn 2015, but the presidential administration was also considering holding elections in March next year.

The main contenders for the single candidate status have already been identified. For example, the Belarusian Popular Front (BPF) supports Aliaksandr Milinkevich, leader of the For Freedom movement as a contender for the 2015 elections. A presidential candidate in 2006, Milinkevich expressly supports a pro-Europe path for Belarus, and totally ignores the Russian vector in the foreign policy. Amid the Russian aggression in Ukraine BPF and For Freedom leaders made statements, prioritising the preservation of Belarus’ independence and sovereignty over democracy and human rights issues.

The “Tell the Truth!” movement, the BPF and For Freedom, who have teamed up for the ‘People’s Referendum’ initiative, have proposed to mitigate the strategy of tough confrontation with the Belarusian authorities, especially in view of growing threats from the Kremlin (potential external interference and destabilisation of the situation in the country). The partners in the ‘People’s Referendum’ campaign aim to initiate long-term changes in certain priority areas by prompting the government to take part in a dialogue “with society using pressure “from below”. “Tell the Truth!” leader, Uladzimir Nyaklyaeu, a presidential contender in 2010, would be willing to give up his presidential ambitions in the upcoming elections as long as a single candidate was proposed who was ready to promote the idea of the People’s Referendum, in other words, to support a strategy for long-term peaceful democratic reform.

Due to the delays in coordinating the nomination process for a single candidate, the opposition parties have started coming up with other initiatives, and “self-promoted” candidates are also cropping up. Back in May, the United Civil Party proposed to nominate the UCP leader Lebedko as a presidential candidate, however the latter said he was willing to compromise. Some Zhodino-based NGOs and initiatives proposed to nominate former MP and deputy chairman of the Belarusian Social Democratic Party (Hramada) General Frolov as a presidential candidate. Even before that, Anisim, Deputy Chairman of the Belarusian Language Society said he was willing to take part in the presidential race.

However, amid events in Ukraine and Belarus’ reluctance to repeat the experience of 2010, many opposition activists lack motivation to participate in political campaigns and change the regime through mass protests. As a result, the human resources of the opposition politicians in 2015 campaign may be scarcer than in 2010.

If, in the near future, the opposition does not agree on the nomination procedure for electing a single candidate in the 2015 presidential elections, the number of potential candidates will increase. However, not all of them will ultimately take part in the presidential race.

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The Belarusian authorities have launched a discussion on the moratorium or abolition of the death penalty under the pressure of Belarusian human rights activists and international community. Apparently, the authorities are interested in monitoring public sentiments and response to the possible abolition of the capital punishment. The introduction of a moratorium on the death penalty would depend on the dynamics in Belarusian-European relations, efforts of the civil society organisations and Western capitals.

In Grodno last week, the possibility of abolishing the death penalty in Belarus or introducing a moratorium was discussed.

The Belarusian authorities are likely to continue to support the death penalty in Belarus. During his rule, President Lukashenka pardoned only one person, and courts sentenced to death more than 400 people since the early 1990s. Over the past year, Belarusian courts sentenced to death several persons and one person was executed.

There are no recent independent polls about people’s attitude about the death penalty in Belarus. Apparently, this issue is not a priority for the population. In many ways, public opinion about the abolition of the death penalty would depend on the tone of the state-owned media reports.

That said, the Belarusian Orthodox Church and the Roman-Catholic Church stand for the abolition of the capital punishment, however their efforts in this regard only limit to public statements about their stance. Simultaneously, the authorities could have influenced public opinion about the death penalty through a focused media campaign in the state media. As they did, for example, with the nuclear power plant construction in Astravets. Initially unpopular project of the NPP construction was broadly promoted in the state media, and eventually, according to independent pollsters, was accepted by most population.