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.
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.