Personal ambitions continue to outstrip strategic aims of the opposition
On May 2 a meeting of the so-called “coalition of six”, a group of opposition parties and movements, took place in Minsk. According to the public information disseminated by Leu Marholin, Deputy Chairman of the United Civil Party (UCP), issues concerning running in the parliamentary elections were not discussed. Instead, the coalition focused on the issues of Belarus’ modernization and cooperation between political parties, NGOs, and the expert community.
Ignoring a key question concerning the format of running in the election campaign (a year ago the “coalition of six” was established for this purpose) confirms the prior judgment that the opposition will fail to achieve a single strategy for running in the parliamentary elections. Moreover, a number of decisions and statements made by opposition leaders during the last week give evidence of the coalition’s failure to stay within the association of four units.
Discrete statements by two participants of the “coalition of four” opposition units, which splintered away from the “coalition of six” on 2 February 2012, show that it is easier for the opposition powers to act individually rather than to unite even in small coalitions. On April 29, the Belarusian Popular Front (BPF) party congress announced its decision to propose 30 candidates for the forthcoming parliamentary elections. As BPF leader Janukevich noted, the party reserved the right to withdraw the candidates before voting if there would be political prisoners by that time in Belarus. On April 30 Nyaklyaeu, leader of Tell the Truth! campaign, left open the possibility that a number of activists would participate in the elections.
It is therefore fair to say that individual behavior strategies have won out over cooperation strategies within the opposition movement. At least until a new balance of forces and negotiating capacity is found.
The main negative conclusion of this process is the public demonstration of the opposition’s failure to reach an agreement on current issues and to act together, as well as to complete jointly set tasks. Discrete statements by the “coalition of four” demonstrate that the coalition has failed to hold a public discussion about the opposition’s format for running in the elections and to achieve the goals set in the declaration as of February 2012.
Today, the campaign tactics of the “coalition of six” participants, which can be considered as formal, are as follows:
- Just World party: running in the elections without withdrawing the candidates;
- Belarusian Popular Front: running in the elections with a possible withdrawal of candidates if there are political prisoners by that time in Belarus;
- Tell the Truth! campaign: participation most likely, but conditions are not yet clear;
- United Civil Party: active boycott of the elections of proposed candidates and who will unconditionally withdraw before voting starts;
- Belarusian Christian Democracy, a non-registered political party, and the People’s Assembly organising committee: complete boycott of the elections with no registered candidates and campaign for overseeing the voting process.
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.