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.
Last week, Belarusian Foreign Minister Makei participated in the foreign ministers’ meeting of the Eastern Partnership and Visegrad Group initiative hosted by Warsaw. The Belarusian FM emphasized Belarus' interest in cooperation in the transport sector, which could be due to Belarus’ desire to export electricity surplus after Belarus finished construction of the nuclear power plant in Ostrovets. Minsk expressed concerns about Warsaw’s stance on the Belarusian NPP, as it refused to buy electricity from Belarus and supported Vilnius’ protest on this issue. Following accusations by the Belarusian leadership and the state media against western states, including Poland, of training "nationalist militants", Minsk did not agree on the visit of the European Parliament deputies from Lithuania and Germany to Belarus and to the NPP construction site near Ostrovets in particular. In addition, the Belarusian authorities have stepped up efforts to enforce education in Russian in Polish-language schools in Grodno and Vaukavysk. Should a rift in Belarusian-Polish relations persist, the Belarusian authorities are likely to step up the pressure on the Polish-speaking minority in Belarus.