Parties split over election observation
On August 21st, 6 opposition movements announced launch of the “Just and Fair Elections for a Better Life” campaign. Earlier, on July 24th, 5 other opposition movements signed an agreement establishing an inter-party structure “For Fair Elections” to observe the elections.
Newly shaping political opposition blocs reorganize old political coalitions which were created to monitor the elections. This process brings up the issue whether the opposition as a whole has sufficient human resources to, firstly, participate (win) in the elections and, secondly, to organize election observation.
The breakup in the “For Fair Elections” election observation campaign into at least two political blocs is the result of long-term centrifugal and unifying processes within the Belarusian opposition, started after the 2010 presidential campaign.
Today, the two political coalitions to observe elections are as follows. First, “For Fair Elections” campaign includes: the Belarusian Popular Front, “For Freedom” and “Tell the Truth” movements, the Belarusian Social Democratic Party (Hramada) and the organizing committee of the Belarusian Christian Democracy party. Second, “Just and Fair Elections for a Better Life” includes: Belarusian Party of the Left “Fair World”, the United Civil Party, the Workers’ Party Organizing Committee, the Belarusian Women’s Party “Nadzeya” Organizing Committee, and the Organizing Committee of “For Fair Elections” public human rights association, and “Belaruski Rukh” movement.
The formation of two new political blocs for election observation, on the one hand, implies failed negotiations between the party leaders. On the other hand, such outcome was predetermined by the changes in the political opposition structures – currently there are two clear coalition centres (the “Troika”, advocating for a referendum, and the Left Platform) and all other actors either have to join the already existing coalitions or act independently. The coalition cores’ expansion objectively results in reshuffles in previous ‘umbrella’ coalitions, including those doing the election observation.
“European Belarus” campaign, led by former presidential candidate Sannikov adds uncertainty to this configuration by standing aside of these coalitions.
The split in the election observation campaign in Belarus is a challenge for the opposition, since it shifts priorities from struggling for political power to observing elections and reporting violations. In addition, the increased number of structures willing to observe elections implies greater demand for activists, who will be distracted from participation in the candidates’ initiative groups (or will attempt to combine both).
Finally, international organizations, which fund election observation campaigns, are the main recipients of the information about irregularities during the elections. Previous experience demonstrates, that the information about violations during elections leaves Belarusian voters mostly indifferent and does not provoke reactions sufficient to revise the elections results or the more so, to change the existing political system.
President Lukashenka continues to rotate staff and rejuvenate heads of departments and universities following new appointments in regional administrations. Apparently, new Information Minister Karliukevich could somewhat relax the state policy towards the independent media and introduce technological solutions for retaining control over Belarus’ information space. New rectors could strengthen the trend for soft Belarusization in the regions and tighten the disciplinary and ideological control over the student movement in the capital.
President Lukashenka has appointed new ministers of culture and information, the new rector of the Belarusian State University and heads of three universities, assistants in the Minsk and Vitebsk regions.
The new Information Minister Karliukevich is likely to avoid controversial initiatives similar to those former Minister Ananich was famous for, however, certainly within his capacities. Nevertheless, the appointment of Belarusian-speaking writer Karliukevich could be regarded as the state’s cautious attempt to relax environment in the media field and ensure the sovereignty of national media.
The Belarusian leadership has consolidated the trend for mild Belarusization by appointing a young historian and a ‘reasonable nationalist’, Duk as the rector at the Kuleshov State University in Mogilev. Meanwhile, while choosing the head of the Belarusian State University, the president apparently had in mind the strengthening of the ideological loyalty among the teaching staff and students at the main university in order to keep the youth movement at bay. Previously, Korol was the rector of the Kupala State University in Grodno, where he held purges among the disloyal teaching staff.
The trend for the renewal of mid-ranking executives and their rejuvenation has confirmed. The age of the Culture Minister and three new rectors varies from 39 to 44 years old.