The population is willing to vote but remains politically inactive
The election campaign is following the traditional path with a slight increase in pro-state public institutions’ activities. Regardless of the citizen’s high readiness to vote, the electoral political activity in the country is extremely low.
On August 13th finished the next stage of the election campaign: signatures collection in support of Deputy Candidates. The Candidates’ registration will be completed by August 23rd.
As of August 14, there were 494 applicants for the status of a candidate, including 21 current MPs.
Political parties proposed the largest number of candidates - 264, citizens put forward 223 candidates through the signature’s collection, 111 candidates were put forward from labor groups. Among political parties, the most active is the Liberal Democratic Party (93 nominees), the United Civil Party (48), the Belarusian Popular Front (33) and the Belarusian Left Party “Fair World” (32).
According to the CEC Head Mrs. Yarmoshyna, during the candidates’ registration their number will shrink significantly because the quality of submitted applications (documents, tax forms, signatures) is low. According to the CEC, in 2008, one-fourth of all applications had been rejected.
During this campaign youth organization Belarusian Republican Youth Union (BRSM) is very active. The organization has already announced several national information campaigns, inter alia, “The Young Voter Day” and has set up a network of elections HQs in the regions.
Presumably, the purpose of these BRSM actions is to mobilize young people to participate in the election campaign. As noted earlier, two other organizations are responsible for the mobilization of the adult population – Belarusian Federation of Trade Unions and “Belaya Rus” quango.
IISEPS’ June poll said the proportion of citizens willing to vote is quite high - 50.7% respondent said ‘yes’. At the same time, 19.4% were not planning to vote, and 29.9% were undecided. At the same time, opposition parties and social movements note very low citizen’s activity they encountered during the signatures’ collection process.
Political apathy of the population is part of the state policy and the basis of the regime’s stability. Voting is considered a ritual obligation. It is anticipated that in September the authorities will start an active mobilization campaign using state media and quangos, which will increase the turnout at the polling stations.
The Belarusian authorities could to step up the opposition representation in local councils, should party members demonstrate potency. The Belarusian leadership is unlikely to have the resources to ensure 100 percent pro-government candidates in the local elections. The authorities have exhausted the grassroot support and have no funds to pay for the loyalty.
The Belarusian Central Election Commission has proposed to hold the elections to the local Councils of Deputies on February 18th, 2018.
The president has repeatedly emphasised the importance of the local councils in the power system and the state machine always tried to ensure the necessary local election results. Candidates have been decreasing in number with each elections and the authorities dealt with that by reducing the deputy corps. That said, during the rule of President Lukashenka, his electoral base has changed substantially. Over the past decade, most Belarusians have moved to cities and lost their local roots. The rural population is ready to support the president, but rural residents are constantly decreasing in number.
The Belarusian leadership is likely to permit broad participation in the election campaign and an increase in alternative representatives in the local councils. However, the opposition would have to boost its activity, so as so far it has been passive in defending its interests. In addition, the authorities, while determining the date for the local elections, have taken into account the fact that the opposition is usually the least active in the winter time.
Overall, both, the opposition and the local authorities have exhausted their grassroot support, however new local leaders may still come on political stage, although the party opposition has not yet shown sufficient aspirations.