Pre-election opposition: variety of tactics and some traces of strategy
Country’s leadership sets narrow frameworks for formal and informal actions for the election campaign participants. During the campaign, pro-government and opposition candidates will face tough opposition from the authorities and, in the best case scenario, they will use the campaign to demonstrate their mobilization capacity and ability to create new coalitions.
The key player in the campaign could become a Republican public association (QuaNGO) “Belaya Rus”, which lists about 130 thousand members. Its leadership does not leave attempts to convert the QuaNGO into a political party, and to strengthen its positions, therefore it is important for “Belaya Rus” to show to the country’s leadership its mobilization capacity “in action”: Parliamentary elections provide with such an opportunity. However, it is not likely that Belaya Rus will be converted into a political party, as the emergence of a mass-scale and organized political organization in the country contradicts interests of President Lukashenko.
Meanwhile, the opposition parties and movements are busy reorganizing old and new coalitions, as well as launching initiatives linked with the upcoming campaign. On June 16th, two civil campaigns “Tell the Truth!” and “For Freedom” signed a cooperation agreement within the framework of the National Platform for Civil Society Forum of the Eastern Partnership. Both movements are planning to nominate candidates for the upcoming elections and to observe the voting procedures. In addition, these two organizations have set up an organizing committee to promote Kastus Kalinowski.
A number of opposition parties and movements have announced plans to carry out election monitoring: “For Fair Elections” campaign, which is coordinated by “Fair World” political party and “Public control - for Fair Elections!” campaign (Coordinators - the Belarusian Popular Front Party, the “Green” party and “For Freedom” movement). Finally, on June 21st Belarusian human rights activists launched their election monitoring campaign “Human Rights Defenders for Free Elections”, envisaging to engage over 500 observers.
On the one hand, such an abundance of initiatives related to election observation, coupled with a variety of election participation strategies (boycott, active boycott, conditioned participation, unconditional participation), indicates that internal crisis within the opposition is increasing. On the other hand, this process triggers formations of new opposition movements and coalitions, which set long-term political goals and do not link their activities with the electoral cycle (in particular, “For Freedom” and “Tell the Truth!” movements).
The parliamentary campaign will enable all of these pro-government and opposition players to show their mobilization capabilities. However, one should not expect changes in the political situation before and after the elections.
The established formal and informal frameworks of political activity will be tough for all participants in the election campaign.
For instance, it is likely that the authorities will pay particular attention to the street campaigning by the opposition and the more so bearing in mind the recent legislative changes concerning street rallies. It is also likely that attempts of “Belaya Rus” to transform into a political party will be systematically and informally suppressed by the bureaucratic machine.
The rapid increase in wages has led to a decline in the ratio between labour productivity and real wages to one. Previously, the rule was that enterprises, in which the state owned more than 50% of shares in the founding capital, were not allowed increasing salaries if this ratio was equal to or less than one. The authorities are unlikely to be able to meet the wage growth requirement without long-term consequences for the economy. Hence, the government is likely to contain wage growth for the sake of economic growth.
According to Belstat, In January – August 2017, GDP growth was 1.6%. The economic revival has led to an increase in wages. In August, the average monthly wage was BYN 844.4 or USD 435, i.e. grew by 6.6% since early 2017, adjusted for inflation. This has reduced the ratio between labour productivity and real wages from 1.03 in January 2017 to 1 in the first seven months of 2017. This parameter should not be less than 1, otherwise, the economy starts accumulating imbalances.
The need for faster growth in labour productivity over wage growth was stated in Decree No 744 of July 31st, 2014. The decree enabled wages growth at state organizations and organizations with more than 50% of state-owned shares only if the ratio between growth in labour productivity and wages was higher than 1. Taking into account the state's share in the economy, this rule has had impact on most of the country's key enterprises. In 2013 -2014 wages grew rapidly, which resulted in devaluation in 2014-2015.
Faster wage growth as compared with growth in labour productivity carries a number of risks. Enterprises increase cost of wages, which subsequently leads to a decrease in the competitiveness of products on the domestic and foreign markets. In construction, wholesale, retail trade, and some other industries the growth rate of prime cost in 2017 outpaces the dynamics of revenue growth. This is likely to lead to a decrease in profits and a decrease in investments for further development. Amid wage growth, the population is likely to increase import consumption and reduce currency sales, which would reduce the National Bank's ability to repay foreign and domestic liabilities.
The Belarusian government is facing a dilemma – either to comply with the president’s requirement of a BYN 1000 monthly wage, which could lead to new economic imbalances and could further affect the national currency value, or to suspend the wage growth in order to retain the achieved economic results. That said, the first option bears a greater number of negative consequences for the nomenclature.
Overall, the rapid growth in wages no longer corresponds the pace of economic development. The government is likely to retain the economic growth and retrain further growth in wages. Staff reshuffles are unlikely to follow the failure to meet the wage growth requirement.