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 could to step up the opposition representation in local councils, should party members demonstrate potency. The Belarusian leadership is unlikely to have the resources to ensure 100 percent pro-government candidates in the local elections. The authorities have exhausted the grassroot support and have no funds to pay for the loyalty.
The Belarusian Central Election Commission has proposed to hold the elections to the local Councils of Deputies on February 18th, 2018.
The president has repeatedly emphasised the importance of the local councils in the power system and the state machine always tried to ensure the necessary local election results. Candidates have been decreasing in number with each elections and the authorities dealt with that by reducing the deputy corps. That said, during the rule of President Lukashenka, his electoral base has changed substantially. Over the past decade, most Belarusians have moved to cities and lost their local roots. The rural population is ready to support the president, but rural residents are constantly decreasing in number.
The Belarusian leadership is likely to permit broad participation in the election campaign and an increase in alternative representatives in the local councils. However, the opposition would have to boost its activity, so as so far it has been passive in defending its interests. In addition, the authorities, while determining the date for the local elections, have taken into account the fact that the opposition is usually the least active in the winter time.
Overall, both, the opposition and the local authorities have exhausted their grassroot support, however new local leaders may still come on political stage, although the party opposition has not yet shown sufficient aspirations.