Pressure works: two opposition members in the Parliament
For the first time in 16 years two opposition members – Anna Kanopatskaya (United Civic Party) and Alena Anisim (Francišak Skaryna Belarusian Language Society) got into the Parliament as a result of the election campaign. This means that the authorities yielded to pressure in the most sensitive issue for them (even if on their conditions). The main result of the campaign is that the authorities have acknowledged opposition’s political weight and its right to be represented in the Parliament. This means that systematic pressure from the opposition and the West can bear fruit.
Alena Anisim’s selection to the House of Representatives was somewhat expected, as there were no strong candidates from the authorities at her Staŭbcoŭski voter’s district #70.
However, naming Anna Kanopatskaya as the winner in Kastryčnicki voter’s district #97 (the same district where Tatsiana Karatkevich, ‘Tell the Truth!’ ex-candidate to president-2015 was a candidate) is an unexpected step by the Belarusian authorities. Most probably, this step was taken to reach a number of goals:
- The most important (the same applies to the case of Anisim) – let the opposition to the parliament as a response to the pressure from the opposition and the West as well as the growth of the protest sentiment in the Belarusian society.
- Stripe Tatsiana Karatkevich off her position of the second politician in popularity and influence in the country thus again equalling the political weight of the opposition
- Divide the centre-right coalition whose leaders were vocal advocates of the unacceptability of any agreements with the authorities, in particular when it came to playing the election game by the authorities’ rules. It is worth mentioning that the United Civic Party, Belarusian Christian Democracy, and ‘For Freedom!’ Movement to a great extent built their political capital on the harsh criticism of what they perceived as ‘Tell the Truth!’ civil campaign’s over-compromising with the authorities.
- Choose the candidate whose patron, leader of the ruling party in the European parliament – European People’s Party (EPP) Joseph Daul, stated before elections in Minsk that the elections in Belarus would pass according to the scenario of the authorities and that the EPP would not play along this scenario; however, he supported the dialogue with the authorities in case of progress on the elections.
- Camouflage the very fact of the concession with the scandalous step, show that even the fulfilment of terms depends on the arbitrary rule of the authorities.
However, all these reasons don’t change the fact that the authorities accepted concessions and that systematic pressure without ultimatums works.
During searches of social and "green" activists and anarchists, law enforcement has seized computers, mobile phones and publications. The authorities have also exerted additional pressure on supporters of unauthorized street protests and independent lawyers, who represented defendants in the White Legion case. The security services have stepped up the persecution of opponents before the street protests announced by the opposition. Apparently, the Belarusian authorities aspire that participants in street protests would reduce in number and that the low interest of the population to socio-political agenda before the local election campaign would retain.