Parliamentary campaign kicks off in Belarus
Parliamentary campaign will, traditionally, take place in isolation: elections to electoral commissions and to the Parliament per se are closely controlled by the authorities. External political actors’ access will be minimal.
On June 18th, President Lukashenko signed a decree setting the Parliamentary elections date to the lower chamber, the House of Representatives for September 23rd. The upper chamber (Council of the Republic) will be formed between June 30 and September 30. On June 20th, the process of nomination of district election commission representatives kicked off.
The first campaign intrigue will be the nomination of 110 district election commissions’ members, which need to be set up before July 6th. Political parties and public organizations have already started nominating their representatives to the commissions. Within the current foreign policy context and taking into account previous experiences, the representation of the opposition in the election commissions will be either minimal or none at all.
In turn, at this stage of the campaign it is anticipated that there might be a competition between the Trade Unions Federation of Belarus and the National Association “Belaya Rus” for the right to participate in the district commissions. Both organizations are vying for the right to represent Belarusian civil society and for the benevolence of President Lukashenko in particular.
Finally, the KGB has also talked about its plans to monitor the campaign progress more actively. The role of the KGB is not yet clear, but it is expected that the KGB will use its capacity at least to prevent unwanted participants and observers from voting and counting procedures. Authorities’ main task during this election campaign is to ensure formation of manageable and predictable Parliament.
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.