Opposition’s post elections coalitions shaping up
At the close of the election campaign, coalitions shaping within the Belarusian opposition are casual and tactical. Also, the opposition attempts to extend the action planning up until the presidential election in 2015. At the same time, there is still a lack of a long-term joint action strategy in the opposition.
On September 21st, six oppositional parties and organizations, i.e. the United Civil Party, non-registered Belarusian Christian Democracy party, Belarusian Rukh, electronic industry workers’ union, youth organization Malady Front and Rada of the Belarusian intelligentsia, urged voters not to vote in the Parliamentary elections.
Effects produced by the joint statement calling for the elections’ boycott were minimal, primarily because there was no significant mobilization of the population during the campaign. On the contrary, all observers, both from the government and the opposition, noted campaign’s inertia and population’s low interest in political agitation. There are no reasons to believe that elections’ boycott tactics by the opposition had a mobilization effect on the population or contributed to the lower turnout at the polling stations.
Similar conclusion is attributable to the opposition’s tactics of participation in the elections, which was carried out by the “Fair World” party, “Tell the Truth!” and “For Freedom” movements. Mobilization attempts by these organizations to encourage voters to vote for the opposition candidates were hampered by either passive attitudes of the population, or by the authorities’ successful crack downs on the most active political activity manifestations. In these circumstances, when opposition does not have the resources to mobilize the electorate, its main task becomes internal restructuring and new coalitions’ formation.
Today, the long-term goal triggering the formation of new coalitions is participation in the 2015 Presidential elections. At least three political organizations (“Tell the Truth!”, “For Freedom”, and the Belarusian Popular Front) have already announced their adherence to this goal (the BPF boycotted the elections, but maintains close ties with the “For Freedom” movement leaders and thus may be included in this virtual coalition ). Other political opposition has not yet expressed its attitude towards such a long-term goal and, therefore, their unity until they do would be situational and short-term by nature.
All in all, the opposition coalitions’ formation process after the parliamentary election campaign is yet informal or semi-formal, evidenced by joint actions taken or statements issued (eg, the August statement by “Tell the Truth!” and “For Freedom”). These coalitions are tactical, and they do not suggest a strategy for joint actions during a long post-election period until the nearest campaign, i.e. the 2015 Presidential election.
One of the negative effects of the campaign was winding up of the radical opposition movement in exile. The most radical immigrant groups have not yet presented working structures and human resources and have reduced their activity, limiting the outreach to the Internet and social networks. One of them is the Organizing Committee of the National Revival Board, staffed with several former employees of the Belarusian law enforcement agencies directed by Mr. Borodach. On September 20th he urged citizens to boycott the elections in Belarus.
“European Belarus” movement should be included in this group of ‘radical immigrants’. It is formed around the ex-presidential candidate Andrei Sannikau and runs a popular website “Charter 97”. Reports say, Mr. Sannikov at present is undergoing a medical treatment in Lithuania, and his agent Dmitri Bondarenko has recently announced his emigration to Poland. Neither of them have yet made detailed statements about their political plans in Belarus.
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.