Political perspectives of “Belaya Rus” increasingly doubtful
The prospects of transformation of the quango “Belaya Rus” into the “party of power” and its participation in the Parliamentary elections in 2012 remain uncertain. President Lukashenko has little interest in creating such structure before the elections, and is even less interested in the electoral reform.
On 8 September Chairman of the Central Election Commission of Belarus Yarmoshyna said in an interview with Interfax-West news agency that the upcoming parliamentary elections in Belarus will be held under the current majority system.
Contrary to popular belief, the prospects of transformation of the quango “Belaya Rus” into the “party of power” and its participation in the Parliamentary elections in 2012 remain uncertain. President Lukashenko has little interest in creating such structure before the elections, and is even less interested in the reform of the election legislation.
The intervention of the CEC Head Yaromoshyna with regard to the fate of “Belaya Rus” implies that the top management of the country is at odds with the leadership of “Belaya Rus”. The President and his environment are not interested in the reform of the majority electoral system in the first place. Moreover, Lukashenko and security forces close to him are not interested in the emergence of a new political player in Belarus, even if it is a “party of power”.
Therefore, the statement of Yarmoshina contains a twofold signal addressed to the lobbyists of the BR. Firstly, the CEC excluded the possibility of a reform of the electoral legislation before the 2012 elections by saying that the CEC has not received instructions “to work out this issue” from the President. The policy of conservation of the electoral system, announced by President Lukashenko in April 2011 remains unchanged: the 2012 elections will be held under the current majority system.
Secondly, Yermoshina informally referred that the transformation of the BR into a political party was extremely undesirable. The Head of the CEC has made it clear that internal funding of the new party will be fraught with serious difficulties, “I do not think that under the current circumstances there [...] will be well-wishers who would like to provide financial support to a political structure”. In fact, this statement by the Head of the CEC could be regarded as an ultimatum.
The Head of the CEC has made it clear that internal funding of the new party will be fraught with serious difficulties, “I do not think that under the current circumstances there [...] will be well-wishers who would like to provide financial support to a political structure”.
Therefore there is almost no intrigue concerning the transformation of the BR into a political party. On 30 August President Lukashenko stated that the leadership of the country was ready for a dialogue with various political actors to address the pressing issues, which had been erroneously interpreted as another “liberal” signal.
In authoritarian Belarus a "dialogue" implies primarily shared liability for the consequences of actions undertaken by the authorities without the separation of real power: the decision making is monopolized by the president. This feature of the political system is a major deterrent to the emergence of new pro-presidential parties: Lukashenko perceives such initiatives as threats to his monopoly on power, rather than reinforcement of power.
In terms of information such speculations about the quango “Belaya Rus” meant to improve the image of Belarus, implying that it has stepped on a path of liberalization. The government has made a lot of efforts to create such image in 2008-2010. It still works for the Belarusian authorities to an extent. Therefore the debate over the transformation of the BR into a party of power will be kept in a stand-by mode to achieve the minimal positive PR-effect.
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.