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.
Over the past year, military-political relations between Minsk and Kyiv have become complicated. Due to their high inertia and peculiarities, this downward trend would be extremely difficult to overcome.
The root cause of the crisis is the absence of a common political agenda in the Belarusian-Ukrainian relations. Minsk is looking for a market for Belarusian exports in Ukraine and offers its services as a negotiation platform for the settlement of the Russo-Ukrainian war, thereby hoping to avoid political issues in the dialogue with Kiev. Meanwhile, Ukraine is hoping for political support from Minsk in the confrontation with Moscow. In addition, Ukraine’s integration with NATO presupposes her common position with the Alliance in relation to Belarus. The NATO leadership regards the Belarusian Armed Forces as an integral part of the Russian military machine in the western strategic front (the Baltic states and Poland). In addition, the ongoing military reform in Ukraine envisages a reduction in the number of generals and the domestic political struggle makes some Ukrainian top military leaders targets in politically motivated attacks.
Hence, the criticism of Belarus coming from Ukrainian military leadership is dictated primarily by internal and external political considerations, as well as by the need to protect the interests of generals, and only then by facts.
For instance, initially, the Ukrainian military leadership made statements about 100,000 Russian servicemen allegedly taking part in the Russo-Belarusian military drill West-2017. Then the exercises were labelled quazi-open and military observers from Ukraine refused to provide their assessment, which caused a negative reaction in Minsk. Further, without citing specific facts, it was stated that Russia was building up its military presence in Belarus.
Apparently, the Belarusian and Ukrainian Defence Ministries have entangled in a confrontational spiral (on the level of rhetoric). Moreover, only a small part of the overly hidden process has been disclosed. That said, third states are very likely to take advantage of the situation (or have already done so). This is not only about Russia.
The Belarusian Defence Ministry officials are restrained in assessing their Ukrainian counterparts. However, such a restraint is not enough. Current military-political relations between Belarus and Ukraine are unlikely to stabilise without the intervention of both presidents.