Presidential campaign in Belarus: fewer potential candidates than in 2010
Presidential elections in Belarus will take place on October 11th, 2015; from July 1st to July 17th the Central Election Commission is accepting applications for registering candidates’ initiative groups. So far, potential candidates in the presidential race include Alexander Lukashenka, Tatiana Karatkevich, Sergei Gaydukevich, Sergei Kalyakin, and Anatol Lyabedzka and new potential candidates are unlikely to emerge before July 17th.
On June 30th, the House of Representatives of the National Assembly approved the Central Electoral Commission’s proposal to hold elections on October 11th. When explaining the choice of the date, CEC head Yarmoshyna said that the Parliament’s approval would not require an extraordinary session, that the weather would be good and hinted on the prospect of the second round. Naturally, the CEC does not actually have the second round in mind, however, the CEC making a point about it is already a novelty compared with all previous campaigns.
Last week, the number of potential candidates willing to compete for the presidency reduced. Elena Anisim announced that she would not seek nomination or nominate other candidates. Overall, with Anisim stepping down, the so-called nationalistic wing is unlikely to participate in the presidential campaign given how little time has left. Ales Mekh, Deputy of Uladzimir Nyaklyaeu in the organising committee ‘For Belarus’ Independence and Statehood’ movement, also decided not to participate in the campaign and said he would support Statkevich’s nomination instead.
Other potential candidates who have previously announced their plans to participate in the race have confirmed their intentions. Meanwhile, the CEC was quite clear about candidates who would not be registered. For instance, neither Statkevich, nor his nomination initiative group would be registered. Yarmoshyna also said that Yury Shulgan, self-nominee from the ‘Social Parasites Party’ was unlikely to be registered, so as overly eccentric candidates compromised the idea of elections.
To sum up, other than the incumbent president, Belarus might have four alternative presidential candidates – Sergey Gaydukevich, Sergei Kalyakin, Tatiana Karatkevich, and Anatoly Lebedko. All these candidates have started to campaign. Sergei Gaydukevich, leader of the Liberal Democratic Party of Belarus reported that he had almost completed the initiative group formation. Sergei Kalyakin, Fair World party Chairman, is also busy setting up his initiative group. The United Civic Party, led by Anatoly Lebedko, is working on forming Lebedko’s and Statkevich’s initiative groups. In addition, Lebedko launched his campaign with an online statement, in which he had not mentioned neither his intention to withdraw from the race in favour of Mikola Statkevich, nor to withdraw from the elections if the authorities failed to fulfil the UCP conditions. In fact, he has not mentioned these conditions either.
Tatsiana Karatkevich had started campaigning by making regular field trips to the Belarusian regions long before the election date’s announcement. When the election date was announced, she released a video in which she stated her ambitions and plans. In addition, the ‘People’s Referendum’ coalition called upon the Parliament to propose a date for the national referendum on six issues.
It should be noted, that in the current circumstances four alternative candidates are facing a great challenge – i.e. the need to collect 100,000 signatures to support their presidential nomination. However, the CEC is unlikely to be too harsh on verifying the signatures due to the small number of potential candidates.
Over the past year, military-political relations between Minsk and Kyiv have become complicated. Due to their high inertia and peculiarities, this downward trend would be extremely difficult to overcome.
The root cause of the crisis is the absence of a common political agenda in the Belarusian-Ukrainian relations. Minsk is looking for a market for Belarusian exports in Ukraine and offers its services as a negotiation platform for the settlement of the Russo-Ukrainian war, thereby hoping to avoid political issues in the dialogue with Kiev. Meanwhile, Ukraine is hoping for political support from Minsk in the confrontation with Moscow. In addition, Ukraine’s integration with NATO presupposes her common position with the Alliance in relation to Belarus. The NATO leadership regards the Belarusian Armed Forces as an integral part of the Russian military machine in the western strategic front (the Baltic states and Poland). In addition, the ongoing military reform in Ukraine envisages a reduction in the number of generals and the domestic political struggle makes some Ukrainian top military leaders targets in politically motivated attacks.
Hence, the criticism of Belarus coming from Ukrainian military leadership is dictated primarily by internal and external political considerations, as well as by the need to protect the interests of generals, and only then by facts.
For instance, initially, the Ukrainian military leadership made statements about 100,000 Russian servicemen allegedly taking part in the Russo-Belarusian military drill West-2017. Then the exercises were labelled quazi-open and military observers from Ukraine refused to provide their assessment, which caused a negative reaction in Minsk. Further, without citing specific facts, it was stated that Russia was building up its military presence in Belarus.
Apparently, the Belarusian and Ukrainian Defence Ministries have entangled in a confrontational spiral (on the level of rhetoric). Moreover, only a small part of the overly hidden process has been disclosed. That said, third states are very likely to take advantage of the situation (or have already done so). This is not only about Russia.
The Belarusian Defence Ministry officials are restrained in assessing their Ukrainian counterparts. However, such a restraint is not enough. Current military-political relations between Belarus and Ukraine are unlikely to stabilise without the intervention of both presidents.