“People’s Referendum” takes lead in nominating "single candidate" from opposition
The "People’s Referendum" campaigners are becoming the pivot point for determining the democratic forces’ strategy for the 2015 presidential campaign. Most likely, candidates will be nominated by opposition party blocks or individual political parties. However, if there are several candidates from the opposition, the candidate who is supported by the ‘People’s Referendum’ campaigners will be the main leader in the 2015 presidential race.
Five opposition parties and organizations signed an agreement on the nomination procedure for a single candidate from the opposition in the 2015 presidential elections. They are: "Tell the Truth!" campaign, "For Freedom" movement, the BPF party, BCD and Belarusian Social Democratic Party (Hramada). The Congress of Democratic Forces is scheduled for March 28th, 2015, but the organizers consider May 2015 as the most probable timing for the event.
During the past six months, the opposition leaders have been unable to reach an agreement on the procedures for nominating members to the Congress of Democratic Forces, at which a "single opposition candidate" for the 2015 presidential election should be elected. The democratic forces have considered various options for electing members to the Congress: by holding primaries in the regions, through collecting signatures, at activists’ meetings, as well as by quotas for structures and VIPs. How Congress members are elected is important, as this could strengthen/weaken the position of one or another political party – which is why the opposition politicians have struggled to agree,.
This recent agreement only addresses the split in the opposition over the single opposition candidate nomination. On the one hand, the “People’s referendum" supporters (including "Tell the Truth!", the Social Democratic Party (Hramada), “For Freedom" movement and the BPF) and on the other – the United Civic Party and former communists "Fair World", with the Belarusian Christian Democracy in the middle. The BDC acts as a moderator in the negotiations, but inclines towards the “People’s Referendum” block.
The “People’s Referendum” block has named some possible contenders for the ‘single opposition candidate’ status, underscoring that the final decision would depend on how things develop. The candidate nominated by the ‘People’s Referendum’ campaign supporters will have the greatest chance of becoming the democratic opposition leader..
The ‘People’s Referendum’s main rival is the UCP – in May 2014 the UCP nominated its chairman, Anatol Lyabedzka, to contend for the single opposition candidate status. The UCP is also promoting the idea of holding primaries in the regions in order to determine the ‘single candidate’. During the local elections in 2014, the UCP attempted to hold primaries in Bobruisk, however their efforts were futile, as they said, due to pressure from the security services. The UCP also intended to hold primaries in Orsha in 2010, but failed to organise them.
In October 2014, the "People’s referendum" campaign initiators passed 50,000 signatures to Parliament. Signatories support a nationwide referendum on six issues,(identified by the initiators) to be held. If the UCP and ‘Fair World’ decide to quit negotiations over the single candidate nomination, the remaining five opposition structures will manage to carry out a full-fledged campaign independently, thanks to ongoing work with the population.
Most likely, various political structures will be prompted to seek a compromise with the signatories to the nomination agreement for a "single oppositional candidate". The candidate supported by the "People’s referendum" campaign initiators will be the key figure in determining the opposition’s strategy for the 2015 presidential campaign, even if there are several candidates from the opposition.
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.