Political prisoner Statkevich has become common denominator in ’Coalition for Non-recognition’
Supporters of the “Coalition for Non-recognition” have finally joined hands around the initiative group for nominating political prisoner and former presidential candidate Mikalai Statkevich as presidential candidate in the upcoming elections. United Civil Party leader Anatoly Lyabedzka is likely to gain most benefits from the coalition in the presidential race. Meanwhile, unlike the “People’s Referendum” campaign, this coalition is not sustainable and has no long-term cooperation plans.
Political prisoner Statkevich’s campaigning headquarters, who is currently in custody, will be headed by former political prisoner Mikalai Autukhovich.
Originally, Syarhei Skrabets, Statkevich’s counterpart from the Belarusian Social-Democratic Party (Narodnaya Hramada) was thought to head the initiative group to nominate Statkevich as a presidential candidate. However, later it has been decided that his wife Marina Adamovich will lead the nomination group.
This initiative group has united practically all opposition movements, which advocate for changes in the election practices as a condition for their participation in the presidential race, including the United Civil Party, Belarusian Christian Democracy and some other opposition initiatives.
United Civil Party leader Anatol Lyabedzka is likely to use the potential of the “Coalition for Non-recognition” as Statkevich’s backup and may run his own campaign aiming to attract attention to the problem of political prisoners in Belarus. At least, that is what he said about half a year ago. So far, Lyabedzka, who has already announced his presidential ambitions, has somewhat disassociated himself from the Statkevich’s initiative group, where his interests are represented by his deputy.
Meanwhile, according to the law, Statkevich cannot be registered as a candidate due to a conviction. His supporters rather aim to register Statkevich’s initiative group in order to hold a public campaign to draw people’s attention to the problem of political prisoners in the country.
Statkevich’s supporters do not have illusions that their campaign might lead to the release of political prisoners, they aim, however, to collect circa 150,000 signatures in his support.
Meanwhile, the Central Electoral Commission said that registration of Statkevich’s initiative group was impossible. In particular, CEC secretary Nikolai Lozovik said, “I can unequivocally say that it will not be registered so as Statkevich cannot become a candidate for presidency”. That is where Anatoly Lyabedzka may step in as Statkevich’s backup.
It is worth noting that creation of Statkevich’s initiative group would significantly cut the odds of Anatoly Lyabedzka to run for the presidency. In addition, Statkevich has agreed with the creation of the initiative group only if that leads to an elections boycott in the case of ‘guaranteed failure of registration’. It is quite possible that Lyabedzka has joined the coalition in order to be able to get out of the election campaign and become a de facto leader of the coalition until the end of the race, not as a candidate. This would save him from collecting signatures while keeping him in the focus of attention.
The Belarusian authorities may use tough measures against opposition parties, which will try to act outside the outlined frameworks in the election campaign. During previous elections, all political activity attempting to raise awareness of the political prisoners issue has been suppressed. Simultaneously, in May 2015 the authorities tightened conditions of Statkevich detention and transferred him to a stricter prison until the end of his term (about a year and seven months).
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.