“People’s Referendum” Coalition reaches new campaigning standards

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April 22, 2016 18:37

On September 4th, the “People’s Referendum” Coalition held a press conference. The coalition’s initiators plan to start collecting signatures to support their initiative in October, aiming to collect 50,000 signatures by the year-end and 450,000 signatures by the 2015 presidential election campaign. In late October, the initiators plan to decide on the final wording of the referendum questions.

The “People’s Referendum” Coalition has emerged as the most powerful opposition center, which is attractive for other political forces and activists. If the coalition’s plans are fulfilled, the presidential candidate from the coalition will have a solid support base for the 2015 election campaign. The choice of questions to be put forward for a referendum will determine the opportunities for the opposition to reach out to wider audiences.

On a positive note, the above-mentioned initiative unites oppositional political forces not against the incumbent president, but around their attitudes to certain issues. Much will depend on what questions will be put for a national plebiscite. If referendum questions are formulated and selected successfully, the coalition candidate may also gain support among social groups outside the usual opposition electorate.

The “People’s Referendum” coalition will attract more opposition activists and political forces if it continues developing its campaign. Joint field trips during the 2013 summer season have demonstrated the coalition leaders’ abilities to negotiate and cooperate. Activists in the Belarusian regions feel fatigue from the constant rivalry and conflicts between the opposition leaders. As a rule, opposition groups in the regions are much more united and used to joint actions, primarily due to the scarcity of resources. A recent conference in Gomel, organized by the newly created coalition “For Fair Elections” has proved this rule to be true. Many conference participants have expressed a lack of understanding of the need for an alternative opposition alliance, e.g. “For Fair Elections”, which was created in opposition to the “People’s Referendum”.

The release of Dmitry Dashkevich also introduces some uncertainty in the existing opposition forces’ line-up. The former political prisoner has said he will leave the ‘Malady Front’ and develop his political career. So far, Dashkevich has said nothing about how exactly he plans to take part in political life – either by creating his own party or joining an existing one. In ideological terms, Belarusian Christian Democracy would be the closest to Dashkevich’s views, but the party has recently softened its position in relation to the country’s leadership. If Dashkevich joins the BCD, the party’s position will become more radical (currently the BCD is cooperating with the “People’s Referendum” coalition on an election observation campaign).

Another former political prisoner and presidential candidate, Andrei Sannikov, has received a Kalinouski Programme scholarship, which implies his further detachment from active politics. Potentially, Sannikov will follow Ales Mikhalevich’s example, also a former presidential candidate in 2010, who, after being released from prison, emigrated and finished his PhD. Recently Mikhalevich has announced his ‘retirement’ from politics and is starting his own business. With a few exceptions, forced emigration leaves no room for further political activity.

Thus, in the near future the centripetal trends around the “People’s Referendum” Coalition will increase. Whether the coalition will manage to reach out beyond the usual ‘opposition’ electorate and win votes of the so-called ‘new majority’, will depend on the referendum questions they come up with. The coalition is not yet putting the single candidate issue on the agenda, which has a positive effect on internal coordination of its activities.

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Belarusian and Ukrainian Defence Ministries entangle in confrontation spiral
October 02, 2017 11:57
Фото: RFRM

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.

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