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.
President Lukashenka has met with the head of Chechnya Ramzan Kadyrov, who visited Minsk and the Minsk Automobile Plant. Minsk has always sought to have independent links with Russian regional elites, partially, to compensate for the Kremlin's diminishing interest in Belarus. In recent years, Belarus’ contacts with the Russian regions have been extremely intense. However, with some leaders of Russian regions, primarily heads of large republics, communication was more difficult to build. As many analysts in Minsk suggested, Minsk could regard contacts between President Lukashenka and the head of Chechnya as an additional communication channel for relieving tension in relations with the Kremlin. However, most likely, a trusting relationship with Kadyrov is a value for Minsk as such, provided Kadyrov’s broad business and political interests, and a high degree of autonomy for the Chechen leader from the Kremlin.