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.
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.