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.
President Lukashenka has met with the head of Chechnya Ramzan Kadyrov, who visited Minsk and the Minsk Automobile Plant. Minsk has always sought to have independent links with Russian regional elites, partially, to compensate for the Kremlin's diminishing interest in Belarus. In recent years, Belarus’ contacts with the Russian regions have been extremely intense. However, with some leaders of Russian regions, primarily heads of large republics, communication was more difficult to build. As many analysts in Minsk suggested, Minsk could regard contacts between President Lukashenka and the head of Chechnya as an additional communication channel for relieving tension in relations with the Kremlin. However, most likely, a trusting relationship with Kadyrov is a value for Minsk as such, provided Kadyrov’s broad business and political interests, and a high degree of autonomy for the Chechen leader from the Kremlin.