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.
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.