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 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.